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The Anthropocene

Drought and heatwaves in Australia cause widespread tree death

The drought and heatwaves that seared eastern Australia in the lead-up to the 2019-20 black summer bushfires killed as much as 60% of the trees in some areas that escaped the fires.

While Australian species are typically hardened to extreme conditions, the record heat and dryness of 2019 pushed some common tree varieties beyond their thresholds, potentially threatening whole ecosystems if they don’t grow back.

The widespread loss of often common species could trigger the transformation of ecosystems from forests to woodlands, or woodlands to scrublands.

The potential change of tree species could have far-reaching effects because such shifts would alter the availability and seasonality of food resources for insects, birds and other species.