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Australian experts call for overhaul of bushfire management to prevent 'megafires'

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-05-19 15:15
A firefighter from a local brigade works to extinguish flames after a bushfire burnt through the area in Bredbo, New South Wales, Australia, Feb 2, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

CANBERRA - A landmark research from Australian National University (ANU) has revealed that bushfires have increased in size and frequency since the mid-1990s.

The study, which was published on Tuesday, has shown for the first time the full extent of the areas affected by bushfires in Victoria since 1995.

David Lindenmayer, a co-author from ANU, called for an overhaul of fire and land management in the state.

"This is the first time we've seen the full spatial extent of bushfires dating back 25 years," he said in a media release.

"What we found is the state is burning more and more. Prior to 2000 we had one mega-fire in Victoria in 150 years of records. Since 2000 we've already had three."

"We can also see the extensive and frequent re-burning of previously fire-damaged areas - sometimes with a gap as short as five or six years."

"These results make a compelling case for a major policy shake-up, with the aim of reducing mega-fires, protecting unburnt areas and managing repeatedly damaged ecosystems," he said.

Researchers found that approximately 1.5 million hectares were burned in Victoria during the 2019-20 "Black Summer" national bushfire crisis.

It was the biggest area affected by fires in Victoria since 1939.

Of the 1.5 million hectares burned in 2019-20, more than 600,000 have burned twice and 112,000 hectares three times since 1995.

"We can no long look at bushfires as unexpected out of the blue events. The data tells us they're only becoming more frequent," Lindenmayer said.

"This impairs the ability of the ecosystem to recover. This includes areas that provide people with access to water, as well as vital habitats and protected areas like state forests."

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