Satellite Imagery Shows Fire Damage to Australia’s Kangaroo Island

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Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third largest island, after Tasmania and Melville Island.  Like parts of mainland Australia, Kangaroo Island has been devastated by bushfires fueled by drought and intense temperatures (2019 was Australia’s hottest and driest year on record).  Located off the mainland of South Australia, southwest of Adelaide, Kangaroo Island is home to multiple protected nature reserves that encompass 25% of the island’s land area.  The 4,405 square kilometer (1,701 square mile) island is home to native wildlife such as the Kangaroo Island kangaroo, Rosenberg’s sand goanna, southern brown bandicoot, tammar wallaby, common brushtail possum, short-beaked echidna, Australian sea lion and long-nosed fur seal.

A reported 156,000 hectares (600 square miles) representing one-third of the island has burned, devastating wildlife populations and burning at least 50 homes.  Researchers have estimated that 25,000 koalas (about half of the island’s population) have died in the wildfires on Kangaroo Island.

Imagery from the USGS’ Landsat 8 satellite shows the extent of wildfire scar areas as well as active fires that have burned the western part of the island.  Most of the burn area has occurred since the New Year.

Landsat 8 imagery of Kangaroo Island showing damage from wildfires. Acquirered January 9, 2020.
Landsat 8 imagery of Kangaroo Island showing damage and smoke from wildfires. Acquired January 9, 2020.

This pair of images, taken from Landsat 7 and Landsat 8 just eight days apart, show how quickly and far the bushfires spread on the western side of Kangaroo Island.

Satellite imagery shows how devastating the bushfires have been on Kangaroo Island. Source: USGS
Satellite imagery shows how devastating the bushfires have been on Kangaroo Island. Source: USGS

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