The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Australia Firefighters Save the Only Wild Prehistoric Wollemi Pines on Earth
The Wollemi pines once grew widely across Australia from more than 100 to 60 million years ago, The Washington Post reported. But now less than 200 remain in the wild, in a national park 125 miles northwest of Sydney.
"It's something like the Opera House of the natural world," Richard Kingsford, director of the Center for Ecosystem Science at the University of New South Wales (NSW), told The Sydney Morning Herald. "Losing it would have added to the catastrophe we have seen elsewhere."
Historic wildfires in Australia this spring and summer have killed at least 28 people and more than a billion animals. Heavy rainfall in the last 24 hours has brought some relief to the the hard-hit states of NSW and Victoria, CNN reported.
But during the worst of the crisis, the NSW government knew it had to protect the ancient trees growing in a ravine in Wollemi National Park, so the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) firefighters and the NSW Rural Fire Service worked together to carry out an "unprecedented environmental protection mission," NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean said in a statement Wednesday.
"Wollemi National Park is the only place in the world where these trees are found in the wild and, with less than 200 left, we knew we needed to do everything we could to save them," he said.
Fire retardant was first dropped over the area from air tankers, and firefighters were lowered from helicopters into the ravine to set up an irrigation system.
Firefighters returned when the flames approached the grove to operate the irrigation system. Helicopters also dropped water on the edges of the fire to protect the trees, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
Much of Wollemi National Park was destroyed by the Gospers Mountain fire, and, for four days towards the end of 2019, officials feared the trees might have been destroyed too.
"We just waited with bated breath," Kean told The Sydney Morning Herald.
But when smoke cleared, it became clear that most of the trees had survived.
Wollemi pines aren't actually pines, The Washington Post explained. They are in fact a type of conifer that has bubbly-looking bark and can grow to be 130 feet.
They were thought to be extinct until 1994, when David Noble, an officer with the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, discovered an unfamiliar tree species when rappelling in the park, NPR reported.
Noble did not know what he'd found, and the samples he brought back stumped biologists and botanists. It was only when he returned with scientists a month later that the mystery was solved.
"When the pines were discovered in 1994, you might as well have found a living dinosaur," Kean told The Sydney Morning Herald.
Their exact location has been kept a secret since then to protect them from contamination, and the firefighters' efforts to save them were kept similarly secret to protect their location.
Kean expressed hope that what Australian firefighters had done for the trees, Australia as a whole could do for the planet.
"We'll always have bush fires in this country. There's no doubt about that. But there's no doubt also that the severity of this year's bush fires is not like anything we've ever seen. And that's due to climate change," Kean told NPR. "There's a huge opportunity for us to lead the way in terms of tackling climate change and help the rest of the world decarbonize. There's no better country on the planet better placed to do that than Australia."
- 25 Humans, More Than One Billion Animals Dead in Australia ... ›
- Australia Airdrops Thousands of Carrots, Sweet Potatoes to ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
- Beat the COVID-19 Blues With These Wildlife and Nature Livecams ... ›
- Bald Eagles Are Still Dying From Lead Poisoning - EcoWatch ›
- Ospreys' Recovery From Pollution and Shooting Is a Global ... ›
The office may never look the same again. And the investment it will take to protect employees may force many companies to go completely remote. That's after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new recommendations for how workers can return to the office safely.
- Trump Admin Rejects CDC Reopening Guidelines - EcoWatch ›
- Trump Labor Department Encourages States to Report Workers ... ›
- White House Ordered Coronavirus Meetings Be Classified - EcoWatch ›
Scientists and art historians are studying art for signs of climate change and to better understand the ways Western culture's relationship to nature has been altered by it, according to the BBC.
- Climate Change, Inspired By Banksy - EcoWatch ›
- Artists and Activists Rise to Fight Climate Change - EcoWatch ›
By Richard Connor
The University of Southern Denmark on Wednesday announced that its researchers have developed the world's first fully automatic robot capable of carrying out throat swabs for COVID-19.
Before you pour a glass of wine, feel the weight of the bottle in your hand. Would you notice if it were a few ounces lighter? Jackson Family Wines is betting that you won't.
After a minor setback, a new era in space travel and tourism is set to launch this weekend.
When the SpaceX shuttle launches its private spacecraft, the Crew Dragon, with NASA astronauts in tow, it will mark the beginning of commercialized space exploration. SpaceX
NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will man the SpaceX Crew Dragon to the International Space Station. NASA
- SpaceX Launches and Lands World's First Recycled Rocket ... ›
- Dear Elon Musk: Your Dazzling Mars Plan Overlooks Some Big ... ›
- Everything you need to know about SpaceX's historic astronaut launch ›
- Crew Dragon Launch Day Timeline: From Suit up to Docking with ... ›
- Updates to Coverage of NASA SpaceX Commercial Crew Test Flight ... ›
- SpaceX's first ever commercial space flight a pit stop on Elon Musk's ... ›
- SpaceX will launch private citizens into orbit - The Verge ›
Former Federal Reserve Governor Rebukes Fed for Using Covid-19 Funds to Bail Out Fossil Fuel Industry
By Eoin Higgins
A former Federal Reserve board of governors member on Thursday called on her former colleagues to stop using Covid-19 relief funds to bail out the "dying" fossil fuel industry, calling the decision a threat to the planet's climate and a misguided use of taxpayer money.
<iframe width="100%" height="150" scrolling="no" class="rm-shortcode twitter-embed-1266004825050939393" id="twitter-embed-1266004825050939393" lazy-loadable="true" src="/res/community/twitter_embed/?iframe_id=twitter-embed-1266004825050939393&created_ts=1590674046.0&screen_name=collinrees&text=The+last+thing+the+Fed+should+be+doing+is+bailing+one+of+world%27s+riskiest+industries+%E2%80%94+fossil+fuels.%0A%0AWe+know+Big+O%E2%80%A6+https%3A%2F%2Ft.co%2Fu4d5SoHy83&id=1266004825050939393&name=Collin+Rees" frameborder="0" data-rm-shortcode-id="a0e370c95211a3c2f9a65eda5a075be6"></iframe>
<iframe width="100%" height="150" scrolling="no" class="rm-shortcode twitter-embed-1266068654724132864" id="twitter-embed-1266068654724132864" lazy-loadable="true" src="/res/community/twitter_embed/?iframe_id=twitter-embed-1266068654724132864&created_ts=1590689264.0&screen_name=Western_Values&text=Oil%2C+gas%2C+and+coal+companies+are+set+to+receive+billions+in+federal+aid+from+both+the+%23PPP+and+%23CARESAct.+Many+of+t%E2%80%A6+https%3A%2F%2Ft.co%2FmX370hwkg1&id=1266068654724132864&name=Western+Values+Project" frameborder="0" data-rm-shortcode-id="c000bc798f2c320613914689edb3c330"></iframe>
- The $88 Billion Fossil Fuel Bailout for Oil, Gas and Coal Exploration ... ›
- Fossil Fuel Firms With Ties to Trump Administration Get Small ... ›
- Big Oil Taking $1.9 Billion in CARES Act Tax Breaks - EcoWatch ›