How Aussie innovators are at the forefront of bushfire regeneration

Photo: WWF- Australia/ Patchworks

THE World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia recently announced grants of $1.32 million for nine projects which will escalate its Regeneration Australia campaign designed to help wildlife survive and recover from the 2019-2020 bushfires.

The injection of funding will support the ongoing development of species and landscape restoration ideas sourced from over 50 applications between October 2020 and March 2021.

Chief executive officer Dermot O’Gorman said the program would solve wildlife challenges.

“Bold new ideas are crucial to help restore species and landscapes, build their resilience, and adapt to a changing climate,” he said.

“To ultimately future proof Australia against a changing climate.”

WWF’s Regenerate Australia campaign.

One innovation is a Bluetooth koala ear tag powered by a solar panel.

Created by koala ecologist Dr Romane Cristescu and her team at the University of the Sunshine Coast, the design allows koalas to be located and taken into care when threatened by bushfires.

“An estimated 60,000 koalas were impacted by the bushfires… the ear tag could play a crucial role in saving koalas,” Dr Cristescu said.

The earpiece, designed to be Bluetooth powered, could signal for 20-30 metres.

With WWF’s investment, a high-frequency technology will replace the Bluetooth system, thus expanding the range of koala locations for hundreds of metres.

The design of a habitat pod for wildlife initiated by Dr Alexandra Carthey from Macquarie University is another project receiving financial backing.

The pods are temporary shelters made of recycled cardboard and waterproofed with beeswax for animals made vulnerable by bushfire terrain.

“Bushfires destroy vegetation where small animals hide.. habitat pods would give small animals somewhere to hide while the vegetation regrows,” Dr Carthey said.

The habitat pods will eventually bio-degrade over a 12 month period. Photo: WWF-Australia/ Sienna Channell

Funding from WWF will enable trials to pilot the design in a real-life practice.

The 2019-2020 bushfires obliterated Australian landscape and wildlife.

WWF estimated 19 million hectares of burnt landscape and nearly three billion animals killed or displaced.

From these grave statistics, Mr O’Gorman hopes Regenerate Australia will re-write the narrative of Australian bushfires.

“Forming a common vision to future proof Australia will create a world in which people and nature live in harmony,” he said.

“It is about creating hope for Australian’s.”

WWF’s support covers various innovations, from animal conservation to landscape rehabilitation, such as seed enhancement technologies to restore severely burnt land.

WWF will plant a tree on behalf of every person who signs up on its website to support the Restoration program.

Regenerate Australia is an ongoing program and will continue to form community-led solutions to climate issues.

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