Yesterday night I read an interesting article about Australian fires. I don’t know, maybe it’s just one opinion, but this attitude has caused some thoughts.
In short, the fires in Australia are now so much in the news that even the Iran-US crisis can only break it off at intervals. It is not only because of the enormous scale of the fires, but also because a lot of information comes directly from the Internet, and even more because of the importance of the media for anything related to global warming.
After all, it would seem natural that if the fires happened, them due to global warming, some human activity, right? Indeed, the influence of human activity is there, but not at all as it seems.
Over 100,000 kilometers have already been burned in Australian fires this year. On the one hand, it is a lot. On the other hand, it is barely one and a half percent of Australia’s territory. Well, it is still much. So far this year, fires are barely the fifth largest among those that have ever been.
Those fires in Australia are not something very unusual, they happen every year. Sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller, but it happens every year. And winter in Australia is that fire season. The eucalyptus is burning there. And eucalyptus is such trees, quite peculiar trees, adapted to the fires.
It appears that eucalyptus seeds cannot even germinate if they have not burned. Such is the adaptation of the eucalyptus. Eucalyptus strains are able to withstand fire and then release new branches. Old branches burn – new ones grow. If the fire is very large, such that the trunk will burn, the offspring will grow out of a stump much thicker than the trunk hidden underground.
Those trees are adapted – they burn and then regenerate. They have been burning and burning for millions of years – evolution is like that. Even more. They intentionally cause fires. Trees deliberately cause fires.
Eucalyptus leaves do not rot – they instead dry out, twisting so as to form a very thick layer of withered foliage on the ground. Leafy layer with plenty of air – ideal for burning. What’s more, those leaves are almost twice as high in calories as normal ones and those withered leaves are hydrophobic and do not absorb moisture. They easy burn even after rain.
What’s more, eucalyptus releases enormous amounts of essential oils. On a hot day, such a tree can emit so much essential oil that if you drop a match on it, it will all just flash as if it were dipped in gasoline. Essential oils burn extremely violently. At least one lightning somewhere is enough – and a fire in the eucalyptus forest starts, which is expanding at an incredible rate. And during winter (Australian summer), there is a lot of lightning there. The trees are ready – they have a lot of both dry leaves and essential oils.
Why do those trees need it? So that competing plant species would disappear. The fire burns everything, but the eucalyptus or some other adapted Australian vegetation is restored. And other, more normal tree species are not able to do that.
Of course, when the forest burns, it takes time to re-establish itself. Tree branches burn – it takes years before they get so big again that they spread dangerous amounts of essential oils. The dry leaves on the ground also burn out – again, it takes years to accumulate a really dangerous amount.
Such is Australia. The picture shows the growing eucalyptus. The forest has burned down, and new shoots are growing right out of the trunks of trees.
© Fortune, 2020
Photo credit: science