Tim Jarvis – Trees are more important now than ever before

Trees are not only useful for mitigating carbon emissions, they play many critical roles. Yet we are not doing enough to protect or restore them, writes environmental scientist Tim Jarvis.

COVID-19 has had many consequences, not least of all in eclipsing Australia’s terrible ‘Black Summer’ fire season in the Australian public consciousness. Go back less than six months and the news was dominated by overwhelming images of forest fires indiscriminately destroying habitat, buildings and lives.

COVID-19 is rightly our current concern. But as I write, summer and the inevitable fire season that it brings are only four months away.

The pandemic makes it easy to forget just how bad last fire season actually was – 186,000 square kilometres of forest burnt, over 5,900 buildings destroyed, and 34 people killed, not to mention the nearly three billion animals that perished.

These impacts are pretty confronting, and led to a range of reactions in the fires’ aftermath. Some suggested that forests were actually part of the problem and should be not be replaced for fear of increasing future fire risk. Others said that it was not the trees but our management regime (or lack thereof) combined with unprecedented hot, dry weather caused by climate change that were the root causes.

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