As the nation grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, bushfire-ravaged parts of Australia are still recovering from summer blazes which destroyed lives and homes, and devastated our unique ecosystems and wildlife species.
One of Science & Technology Australia’s member societies is leading crucial work to help our native ecosystems recover from the bushfire crisis.
The Ecological Society of Australia’s is funding on-ground reconstruction, supports research projects, makes experts available where needed, and works with Government on policy solutions.
It’s biggest piece of work has been establishing the Ecosystem Recovery Fund to collect donations and offers of scientific expertise, data and equipment to support ecosystem restoration.
ESA President Dr Bek Christensen said the organisation had received 75 offers of expertise, equipment, volunteer hours and data so far.
“The response has been absolutely amazing, and it really showed in the direct aftermath of the fires just how keen people were to get in and help in any way they could,” Dr Christensen said.
“We’ve also been coordinating with other scientific societies to share requests and information. It’s been really wonderful to have this coordinated team approach from across our sector.”
The organisation also launched an online form for people and communities to seek assistance.
“For some people this has been a simple query, such as what might make good supplementary feed for Glossy Black Cockatoos.”
“At the other end of the spectrum, people are setting up longer term monitoring and recovery programs and we were able to provide them with either funds, equipment or expert knowledge that they needed to make that happen.”
“We currently have funding, data, equipment and experts available to help, so if there is anything you think we could assist you with, please get in touch.”
Dr Christensen admitted that helping bushfire-affected areas rebuild had become trickier amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is having quite a pronounced effect on bushfire recovery because it is limiting the ability of ecologists and recovery teams to go out into fire affected areas to even assess what the damage has been or begin the process of recovery.”
“We had many people volunteer their time to help through the ESA’s Ecosystem Recovery Fund and, unfortunately, we’ve not been able to get these people out on to projects yet.”
“However, we still have an important role to play by connecting our networks of ecologists, land managers and other experts with people leading bushfire recovery efforts whether they be Government agencies or individual landholders.”
Dr Christensen said the scale of the environmental crisis resulting from these fires will require a sustained response over many years, involving ecological experts, local communities, and public and private institutions.”
“Ecosystem recovery is a long-term game and we plan to continue to support recovery projects and sound science around bushfire for many years to come.”
“Our long-term aim is to ensure wherever possible that the recovery is informed by good science, that experts in the field are consulted, and that we are doing the best we can to help species and ecosystems recover.”
“We also want to generate knowledge and strategies that can help us better protect species and ecosystems and minimise the risk of such devastating fires happening again.”
The ESA is still seeking donations and other offers of support: https://www.ecolsoc.org.au/news/2020/01/esa-bushfire-response
Here is a list of some of the data and equipment on offer: https://www.ecolsoc.org.au/bushfire-recovery-tell-us-what-you-need