A global tragedy is unfolding in Tasmania. World heritage forests are burning; 1,000-year-old trees and the hoary peat beneath are reduced to char.
Fires have already taken stands of king billy and pencil pine – the last remaining fragments of an ecosystem that once spread across the supercontinent of Gondwana. Pockets of Australia’s only winter deciduous tree, the beloved nothofagus – whose direct kin shade the sides of the South American Andes – are now just a wind change away from eternity.
Unlike Australia’s eucalyptus forests, which use fire to regenerate, these plants have not evolved to live within the natural cycle of conflagration and renewal. If burned, they die.