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NSW bushfires have burnt 20% of Blue Mountains world heritage area

NSW bushfires have burnt 20% of Blue Mountains world heritage area

More than 800,000 hectares of forest in NSW national parks have burned in unprecedented fires since 1 July.

NSW bushfires have burnt 20% of Blue Mountains world heritage area

That is more than 10 times the amount of bushland destroyed within NSW national parks in the 2018 fire season, when 80,000 hectares were lost.

The executive officer of the National Parks Association of NSW, Gary Dunnett, said the national parks of the Blue Mountains were some of the most fire-prone landscape in the country, particularly during drought.

“They’re particularly vulnerable to these large-scale fires,” he said.

“I think it’s reasonable to say we haven’t seen anything on this scale since 2000-2001 and, again, the millennium drought was the big driver for that.”

According to statistics, Dunnett is correct. The environmental conditions, combined with strong winds and extremely low humidity, has resulted in the worst fires since 2002 when over 1 million hectares of parks and reserves were burnt. This year’s count already puts the total at 800,000 hectares and summer is only starting. 

Global Tragedy

The loss to the Gondwana rainforest world heritage area in the north of the state due to the fire is a “global tragedy” and an “absolute crisis” a Nature Conservation Council ecologist says.

Chris Gambian, chief executive of the region’s council, said the loss of 800,000 hectares in NSW national parks, out of a total of 1.9m hectares burnt in the state since 1 July, “changes the calculus of nature conservation”.

The “monumental” scale of the fires meant conservation of land would now be “more important than ever”, Gambian said.

“National parks are the best way to protect species and landscapes, but when your national parks have been decimated, you have to look at the total picture and other measures.”

With international governing bodies, such as the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, showing concern for the Australian ecological system, it is apparent the damage has universal impact. 

New South Wales features 28 world heritage reserves. 12 have been affected by fire since July. 

Graham said until a week ago Barrington Tops and the New England national park were the two largest blocks of Gondwana that had not been affected by fire. That changed this week after lightning strikes sparked fires in those areas.

“To be really blunt, it’s an absolute crisis,” Graham said.

“Because they’ve been permanently wet and have never burnt right through, they’re like mountaintop arcs of ancient biodiversity.

“These fires have directly impacted upon the values they were listed for.”

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