Australia is still on fire: how your searches will help

On Thursday, January 23, all Ecosia searches will plant trees in Australia. We will use 100% of our profits to reforest the Byron Bay area. With your help, we can plant native, subtropical trees that clean the air, bring down temperatures, support biodiversity, and attract rain in Australia. We've teamed up with ReForest Now, a local tree-planting NGO. In this episode of the Ecosia podcast, we talk to its co-founder and president about his experience of the bushfires, the difference between bushland and rainforests, and the practical steps we're taking together to save the rainforest.

Here's a transcript of our conversation:


You might have heard about the bushfires in Australia. An area the size of South Korea has gone up in smoke since September. That's 50% more than what burned in the Amazon last year. So we decided that this Thursday, all Ecosia's searches will plant trees in Australia. We'll use 100% of our profits from that day to help regenerate the country's ecosystem by planting native subtropical trees in the Byron Bay area, which is a biodiversity hotspot that has been affected by the fires. These trees will help clean the air, sequester carbon, bring down temperatures, support biodiversity, and attract rain in the region. Our tree planting partner is a local NGO called ReForest Now. And for this episode, I talked to its co-founder and president, Maximo Bottaro.


Tell me about your experience of the bushfires. Because, you know, here in Europe, we do hear a lot about them, but the sheer distance between our continents makes the whole thing seem rather abstract. So what has been your own experience?

Maximo Bottaro:

Well, it was abstract here because we had fires that were running into ancient forests where some scientists that I know and myself have hiked before. And there are ancient trees there that are at least at least 300 years old and some of those trees burnt. And that's rainforest. It shouldn't be burning. Or even if it does burn, it should happen very infrequently. So we had by far the lowest rainfall that we've had in all the time I've been working in rainforest restoration and the science of that. We saw some fires in our own regeneration sites here where I had maybe eight or nine men fighting fires and protecting our trees for some kilometers where we were being surrounded by fires. They were controlled here, but the fires were much stronger further south.

One thing you sometimes hear is that you don't need to worry about trees that have burnt in Australia because they'll just regenerate by themselves quite quickly.

Australia is good at regenerating after fire, but we're planting in rainforest areas and those don't regenerate after fire.

What's the scale of the damage to Australian rainforests specifically? Is it different from previous years?

There shouldn't be any damage to rainforest in Australia. This year we've seen fire going into places that should never go and it's deep in in rainforest that has dried out because it's missing a metre of rain for the year of 2019. It means that some very special places have been burned. We're expecting some species to have gone extinct this year across Australia.

That's really sad to hear that species are going extinct in Australia.

Well, Australia has a few problems, you know, pushing it. Obviously, climate change takes the driest continent in the world and makes things more extreme. But, you know, it's also been logged for a very long time. There's a lot of pressure on the continent now, and we're going to need to change a lot to stop it from turning into a giant desert.

Can you tell me about the next practical steps for the tree planting we're doing in the Byron Bay area?

Well, many of the trees we're going to plant for you are already mature to plant; they're in the nursery waiting. We will measure out the exact area we want to plant and then begin the physical preparation to make sure that the weeds are controlled and we'll have crews go out there to drill the holes and begin organizing a date for the public to come. It's a reasonably simple process once you already have the trees in pots.

You've done research into Byron Bay's landscape fragmentation, genetic diversity and bioprecipitation. Will this all factor into the reforestation work that's about to happen.

By reforesting all rainforests, and putting a moratorium on any rainforest logging is a big priority because I do believe that that bioprecipitation and the other water recycling processes are of benefit to the weather patterns of the whole earth. Essentially, as the earth is distributing weather by the Coriolis effect, as the cloud spin off the equator essentially, I do believe that the existence of rainforests along those precipitation paths is essential to maintain the downstream water supply to the areas that we expect it. And I believe that if we continue to lose our rainforests, that that we're going to see weather travelling to different places than it normally does and rainfall travelling to the wrong place. In terms of the other work, we're active already with several endangered species in increasing the genetic diversity of what's left and to make sure that they are reconnected in the landscape. So it definitely will factor into the work we're doing with you. I would expect several endangered species to be planted directly into the work we do with you. Some of the things that would include would be, for example, small leaf tamarind. There was 104 left in the wild just in 2004. We'd also be planting vines for the incredible Richmond Birdwing butterfly. It's one of the most beautiful and very big butterfly in Australia. And vines for the the pink underwing moth, another endangered creature. But there are so many here in this rainforest that we have to think about.

What do you see as a as a long term effect of this work?

The general idea is that Australia is only getting drier, and on the East Coast here we're fortunate to have more rainfall than almost anywhere else on the entire continent. And it's being washed out to the ocean. It's running off from paddocks. We don't need to allow that anymore. The reason I say it that way is, you know, this this particular region I'm in has had thousands of of dairy operators shut down that were here many, many years ago. And we have enormous open areas of paddock that were formerly rainforests that can be put back the way they were. And they'll have that abundant rainfall to regenerate quickly and then to hold onto that water and help recycle it into the atmosphere and into the nearby regions. I think that's really exciting. And I think that if you look at footage of the earth from space and you look at the distribution of rainfall around the planet where the rain falls, there is meant to be forest and where there's a lot of rain, there needs to be thick forest. So this is this is one such instance where we think we can benefit Australia on a regional level. I might have mentioned to you that, you know, the area where we're planting trees for you was 75,000 contiguous hectares of rainforest, 150-170 years ago, and there's only about 750 hectares of that left. We need to put that back. That's where the earth wants to put the rain. That's where the forest has to be.


And that was it for this episode of the Ecosia podcast. If you want to support this tree planting project in Australia, please use Ecosia. On Thursday, all profits from your searches will go towards this important project. So it's time to take action, and maybe tell your friends that they can help in this easy way as well. Thank you. And thanks for listening.

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