Nearly 50 nationally threatened animal and plant species are believed to have had at least 80% of the area in which they live affected by bushfire, a federal environment department analysis has found.

Another 65 have had more than half their area in the fire zone. Scientists had warned some affected species could be pushed to extinction.

The worst affected mammal is believed to be the Kangaroo Island dunnart, an endangered mouse-like marsupial that lives on the 160km long South Australian island.

It is one of 49 species, including 47 plants and one spider, that have had at least 80% of their likely and known range within fire-hit areas. Seven of the plant species, including the nightcap oak and three types of leek orchid, are critically endangered.

Species believed to have had at least half and up to 80% of their living area affected include the long-footed potoroo, the glossy black cockatoo on Kangaroo Island, the Blue Mountains water skink, the rufous scrub-bird and three critically endangered turtles.

Threatened species hit by bushfires

They are among 331 threatened and migratory species that are believed to have had more than 10% of where they live in burned areas across all six states.

The full list includes 272 species of plant, 16 mammals, 14 frogs, nine birds, seven reptiles, four insects, four fish and one spider.

The analysis includes a special note on the koala, the plight of which has made headlines across the globe. It says the koala is listed as vulnerable in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, and 12% of its likely range in these three jurisdictions was within the fire area.

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Koalas also live in South Australia and Victoria, but are not listed in those states.

The threatened species commissioner, Sally Box, said the results were just the first step in understanding the damage wrought by the bushfire crisis, and that the list would be refined.

She said some species on the list were likely to have been worse affected than others, giving the example of the critically endangered Wollemi pine, or “dinosaur tree”. The last known natural stand of Wollemi pine is in the fire zone and it appears on the list, but the NSW government last week announced it had been saved by firefighters.

“Some species are more vulnerable to fire than others and some areas were more severely burned than others, so further analysis will be needed before we can fully assess the impact of the fires on the ground,” Box said. “Already we are seeing positive examples of threatened species having survived the fires.”

The desktop analysis compared maps of areas burned between August and 13 January with distribution maps of species listed under national environment laws. Box said it would help decide where $50m in initial federal wildlife recovery funding was spent.

The department said some species included in the list might live near, but not in, the areas affected by the fires. Others might have had a larger proportion of the range burned than the preliminary analysis suggested. The analysis gave the example of the western ground parrot as a species that might be worse affected than first thought.

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It warned that some species not currently listed as threatened would have had their range affected by fire and might now qualify as threatened. The department would be “considering assessments of these species in the near future”.



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