Professors: Australia’s recovery will take decades

Published: Jan. 10, 2020 at 12:38 AM EST
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AMERICUS, Ga. (WALB) - It’s been Australia’s worst brushfire on record with a death toll of 27 and more than 2,000 homes destroyed.

Biology professors at one Southwest Georgia university said it will take Australia years to recover from this crisis.

“Here we have Bender, he’s a Tegu lizard. He’s related to some of the lizards you would find in Australia,” said Georgia Southwestern (GSW) Biology Professor Tom Lorenz, who studies animals.

Tom Lorenz is an Associate Professor of Biology at GSW.
Tom Lorenz is an Associate Professor of Biology at GSW.(WALB)

On Thursday, the state of Victoria extended its state of disaster anticipating hot and drier weather.

One of the worst issues is the massive loss of plant and animal life with the fires killing billions of animals that are native to Australia with even more facing extinction.

Lorenz said lizards like Bender could be accounted for in the loss of the billions.

“There are really big mantra lizards that are much larger than this that are big parts of the ecosystem there in Australia,” explained Lorenz.

Though he studies animals, Lorenz knows it starts with plants.

Professor and Chair of Biology Stephanie Harvey said the plants are taking a major hit.

Stephanie Harvey is Professor and Chair of Biology at GSW.
Stephanie Harvey is Professor and Chair of Biology at GSW.(WALB)

“To lose large-scale wilderness area like this, there is definitely the potential for extinction because you’ve lost a key food source,” said Harvey.

Which is why Harvey said it’s important to keep a record.

“It’s a eucalyptus incurva from South Australia,” explained Harvey.

Lorenz said the plants and animals are essentially trapped.

“It’s just this huge swats of fire that nothing can escape from. That’s the real tragedy of it all,” Lorenz said.

But what’s inside GSW’s herbarium could help once recovery efforts begin.

“For example, if they try to do restoration and we know that plant was there but we can find it somewhere else, we can take it and plant it into that area knowing it was native to that area,” explained Harvey.

The biologists said that while some plants can recover quickly, the sooner they can put the fire out, the better.

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