Wildfires have spread dramatically—and some forests may not recover
An explosion in the frequency and extent of wildfires worldwide is hindering recovery even in ecosystems that rely on natural blazes to survive.
Pungent and damp, the so-called tall, wet forests of southeastern Australia are home to the tallest flowering plants on Earth. Eucalyptus regnans, the Latin name of the mountain ash, means “ruler of the gum trees”—which is fitting, given these giants can reach more than 300 feet high.
Many of Australia’s gum trees, particularly those in drier forest types, are famously able to tolerate fire, throwing out new buds and shoots within weeks of being engulfed in flames. But even these tenacious species have their limits.
Old-growth forests of the mountain ash and a related species, the alpine ash, are among the gum trees that are less tolerant of intense blazes. In the state of Victoria, these trees had already been severely depleted