Flora, fauna, fire
The 119 species in need of immediate intervention
The priority species list was instigated by the Bushfire Recovery Expert Panel, set up to support the Australian Government’s bushfire response.
Click through to explore each identified species and its habitat.

Fire extent
Animal habitat

Habitat data from Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment Species Profile and Threats Database (CC-BY), IUCN Red List (with permission).
Kangaroo Island glossy black-cockatoo
Western ground parrot
Regent honeyeater
Rufous scrub-bird
Eastern bristlebird
Albert's lyrebird
Black-faced monarch
Mainland ground parrot
Western Bassian thrush
Gang-gang cockatoo
South-eastern glossy black-cockatoo
Kangaroo Island Western whipbird
Kangaroo Island southern emu-wren
Superb lyrebird
Red-browed treecreeper
Kangaroo Island dunnart
Hastings River mouse
Long-footed potoroo
Kangaroo Island echidna
Mountain Pygmy-possum
Silver-headed antechinus
Broad-toothed Rat, Tooarrana
Smoky Mouse, Konoom
Parma wallaby
Yellow-bellied glider
Greater glider
Brush-tailed rock-wallaby
Long-nosed potoroo
Spot-tailed quoll, Spotted-tail quoll, Tiger quoll
New Holland mouse, Pookila
Mainland dusky antechinus
Grey-headed flying-fox
Golden-tipped bat
Yalmy galaxias
McDowall's galaxias
East Gippsland galaxias
Stocky galaxias
Dargo galaxias
Short-tail galaxias
Flathead galaxias
Honey blue-eye
Roundsnout galaxias
Western Victorian blackfish
Oxleyan pygmy perch
Non-parasitic lamprey
Eastern freshwater cod, Clarence River cod
Macquarie perch
Cann galaxias
Blue Mountains perch
Alpine bog skink
Alpine she-oak skink
Bell's turtle
Blue Mountains water skink
Broad-headed snake
Broad-tailed gecko
Georges' snapping turtle
Glossy grass skink
Granite leaf-tailed gecko
Guthega skink
Kaputar rock skink
Kate's leaf-tail gecko
Long sunskink
Manning River helmeted turtle
Moritz's leaf-tailed gecko
Mustard-bellied snake
Nangur spiny skink
Oakview leaf-tailed gecko
Rainforest cool-skink
Red-tailed calyptotis
Ringed thin-tail gecko
Southern water-skink
Three-toed snake-tooth skink
Northern Corroboree Frog
Mountain frog
Pugh's frog
Sphagnum frog
Peppered Tree Frog
Southern Corroboree Frog
Spotted Tree Frog
Kroombit Tinker Frog
Giant Burrowing Frog
New England treefrog, Glandular frog
Heath Frog
Richmond Range Sphagnum Frog
Davies' Tree frog
Stuttering Frog, Southern Barred Frog
Giant Barred Frog
Fleay's Frog
The Euastacus genus of spiny crayfish is native to Australia and considered the most threatened genera in the world, with more than 80% of species listed under IUCN.

These priority species – representing 40% of all known Euastacus species – were deemed most impacted by the bushfires and many of them possess traits that make them inherently ill-equipped to recover. This includes small home ranges, limited dispersal, slow growth and low egg production. And previous conservation efforts have been hampered by a lack of understanding of many of the species.
Arte spiny crayfish
Cann spiny crayfish
West Snowy spiny crayfish
Tianjara crayfish
Ellen Clark's crayfish
East Gippsland spiny crayfish
Small crayfish
Smooth crayfish
Orbost spiny crayfish
Hairy cataract crayfish
Gamilaroi spiny crayfish
Jagara hairy crayfish
Sutton's crayfish
Clayton's spiny crayfish
Bloodclaw crayfish
Alpine crayfish
Blue-black crayfish
Morgan's crayfish
Many-bristled crayfish
Mud gully crayfish
Small mountain crayfish
Riek's spiny crayfish
Banksia montana mealybug
Eastern Stirling Range pygmy trapdoor spider
Banksia brownii plant louse
Bathurst or purple copper butterfly
Alpine stonefly
Other at risk species groups:
Butterflies, like other insects, are vital for a healthy environment. They contribute to ecological processes that maintain ecosystems, such pollination and energy flow (ie, they are food for many other animals).

The 2019-20 bushfires seriously affected at least 11 butterfly taxa. The fires are estimated to have overlapped at least 30% of their habitat range. Many other butterflies were probably affected, but assessing impacts has been challenging because of limited data on their distribution.

Few butterflies have strategies to escape fire. Some have subterranean life history stages – for example, caterpillars or pupae hide underground in the soil – that provide protection from the fire. Still, most species are killed by fire and their recovery depends on recolonisation from refuges (small unburnt patches) within the landscape or from nearby unburnt areas.

The species most at risk from fire are those with small distributions or those which feed on host plants that can only regenerate after fire from seed in old-growth forests.

Flame Hairstreak
Pseudalmenus barringtonensis

This spectacular butterfly was only recently recognised as a distinct species. It is restricted to areas along the Great Dividing Range, from Tenterfield to Upper Manning Falls. There, it occurs in eucalypt old-growth woodland between 1,200 and 1,600 metres above sea level.

The larvae feed on the foliage of three species of Acacia (A. dealbata, A. melanoxylon and A. irrorata), which are killed by fire and rely on seed in the soil to regenerate.

Fire kills the immature stages of the butterfly. They rely on recolonisation from unburnt areas, but burnt habitats take decades before they become suitable again.

Pre-fire conservation status: Not listed

What percentage of its habitat burned?: >50% of range

Priority immediate actions: Field surveys are needed to assess unburnt areas for presence of the species, especially in the areas between known fires. Monitoring of burnt sites to determine habitat suitability and recovery is also needed.
Photo copyright Michael Braby.
- Michael Braby, Honorary Associate Professor, The Australian National University
Most Australians dismiss snails as ever-present pests in our gardens. But peel back those prejudices (which relate mostly to a few introduced snail species) and you'll discover a remarkable world of diversity.

There are probably more than 1,000 different species of land snails in eastern Australia, exhibiting nuanced differences in size, shape and ecology. Not being very mobile, many of these native snail species have highly restricted distributions and are tightly associated with specific environmental features.

Many species have declined as their habitats have been cleared. Introduced species also consume them, compete with them and degrade their habitats. And drought and climate change renders their lives more challenging. Such factors have caused the extinction of some Australian snails over the last century, and many others are now precariously close.

Fire is no friend for most snails, as it consume habitats such as rainforest patches. Some snails may survive fires because, where available, they can shelter under rocks. But any such survivors then face a barren post-fire landscape that provides no food or cover.

Given their limited capacity for dispersal, the return of snails to burnt habitat mostly relies on populations expanding from unburnt patches. But the 2019-20 bushfires left unusually few unburnt patches.

As with other generally uncharismatic invertebrates, many snails are poorly known. This makes it challenging to reliably estimate the extent of population loss in these fires, or to guide management responses.

Examples of native snails likely to have been severely impacted by bushfires:

Macleay Valley Pinwheel Snail
Gyrocochlea janetwaterhouseae

This small snail has a flattened, tightly coiled shell. It occurs in open forests and rainforests and, as the common name describes, it’s restricted to the Macleay Valley, NSW. The snail mostly shelters under fallen logs, many of which the recent bushfires likely destroyed.

Pre-fire conservation status: Not listed as threatened.

What percentage of its habitat burned? >90%

Priority actions: field surveys to locate surviving populations; ongoing management to reduce risks of future catastrophic fires; possibly control of pests and weeds that may impair recovery of burnt areas.

Kaputar Pink Slug Triboniophorus sp. nov. 'Kaputar'

Not all snails have shells, and not all are dull brown. The recently discovered and currently undescribed Kaputar pink slug is an extreme outlier, with a striking pink body the colour of bubble gum.

The pink slug shelters under rocks, logs or fallen leaves, emerging in moist periods to feed on algae, lichen and fungi growing on the surface of rocks or tree trunks.

It occurs only in the isolated high elevation refuge of Mt Kaputar near Narrabri, NSW. Fires swept over most of Mt Kaputar, and affected much of the pink slug’s habitat and food resources. However, its association with rocks may have provided some shelter.

Pre-fire conservation status: Not listed as threatened under Australian environment laws; listed as Endangered by the IUCN.

What percentage of its habitat burned? >60%

Priority actions: field surveys to locate surviving populations; ongoing management to reduce risks of future catastrophic fires; possibly control of pests and weeds that may impair recovery of burnt areas.
Photo: Stitchingbushwalker/Wikimedia CC BY-SA
- John Woinarski, Professor at the Research Institute of Environment and Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University
Beetles are the largest group of insects in Australia, with an estimated 50,000 species. Plant-feeding species dominate the group, followed by those living in plant debris on the forest floor. This means beetles are severely affected by fires, especially in habitats that rarely or never burn – such as mountain bogs or rainforests. There, fire damage may be permanent.

But beetles living in habitats frequently affected by fire have adapted, and are likely to respond positively. For example, some beetles breed in freshly burnt timber.

Knowledge about how a beetle species responds to fire is therefore important to protecting it. But unfortuantely, knowledge of individual beetle species is often limited to the activities of one or two collectors.

Research efforts into the fire response of beetle species are being concentrated on those likely to be worst affected. Among these, larger, more easily sampled groups – with perhaps more charismatic species – have been selected for further study.

Stag beetles are large and popularly collected. One listed example is Safrina dekeyzeri. Only recognised as a species in 2016, it is known from a few high-elevation sites between Armidale in NSW, and Stanthorpe in Queensland. Many of these sites burnt in the recent fires.

Animal poo is also a component of forest leaf litter and a specialised group, the dung beetles, make their homes in it. Dung beetles are one of the best known insect groups in Australian forests because they’re strongly attracted to baits, and so easy to survey.

A listed example is Aulacopris reichei, one of the largest native dung beetles at two centimeters long. Like most Australian dung beetles, this heavily armoured beetle is attracted to various dung baits, but its biology remains unknown. It’s rarely collected, but occurs in a few coastal forests from Mallacoota in Victoria to the Sydney basin. Many of these sites were recently burnt.
Photo: K Smith and M Beatson, Australian Museum
- Chris Reid
True flies (Diptera) are hyperdiverse, with more than 30,000 species known in Australia. They occupy a wide variety of habitats, ranging from dry scrubland to primary rainforests.

Like many invertebrates, only 25% of species are formally known to science. This means flies are not registered in national environment laws (EPBC Act) or under international IUCN lists of threatened species, as efforts are focused on species identification and discovery.

Fly species thought to be worst-affected by the recent fires are those found only in a small area and with low dispersal rates (which means they don't go far to forage and breed). Weak flying adults, and larvae or eggs sheltering in vegetation or shallow soil, were likely killed.

This includes species of small iridescent soldier flies (in the Stratiomyidae family) such as Antissella purprasina and Opaluma opulens, which are known only from the severely burned Lamington National Park in Queensland.

And the loss of flowering vegetation likely impacted pollinating flies, such as flower flies (in the Syrphidae family) or flower-loving flies (in the Apioceridae family). This flowering vegetation includes tea trees (Leptospermum) and Eucalyptus, which provide food in the form of nectar and breeding sites for many species.

Priority immediate actions include conducting surveys in fire affected areas. This should be done in consultation with records from natural history collections to monitor the recovery of fly populations and impacted species.

There is also a strong need for continued taxonomic studies to formally describe species so they can be included in future recovery surveys, and to be considered for conservation status.
- Bryan Lessard, Entomologist, CSIRO (image also provided by author)
The recent bushfires impacted many spider species across Australia, some severely. The combination of widespread, very intense fires pushed some species to the edge, and unfortunately extinctions are likely.

Spiders are important for the environment: they’re abundant predators, play crucial roles in ecosystems, and provide food for other invertebrates, birds, mammals and reptiles. But due to the lack of knowledge of Australian spiders, it’s difficult to determine exactly how many species were affected. Most spiders are undescribed, so we just don't know what species are out there, where they are distributed or how many we may have lost in the fires.

We do know some spider species are more at risk from fire than others. Traits, such as living in a deep burrow, may offer protection, whereas living in webs in vegetation is likely to increase risk. Similarly, less mobile spiders are unlikely to have escaped fire, and those that can’t disperse far will be less able to recolonise the area following fires.

The most vulnerable spiders in Australia include those with naturally small ranges (called short range endemics), which means the species is restricted to one particular area. For such spiders, large-scale fires could feasibly wipe out whole species.

Two short range endemic species of high concern are:

The Kangaroo Island Assassin Spider
Zephyrarchaea austini

The Kangaroo Island assassin spider is enigmatic, with unusual looks and a habit of hunting other spiders (hence its wonderful common name of “Assassin Spider”). It’s also an ancient spider, a relic left over from when Australia was connected to Africa and Madagascar in Gondwana.

The species is only known from one reserve in north west Kangaroo Island, where it lives in leaf litter suspended in low vegetation. With a geographic range of less than ten square kilometres, this small distribution, flammable habitat and its inability to travel far makes this species highly vulnerable to fire. Preliminary surveys have failed to find any survivors. Sadly, extinction is a possibility for this species.

Pre-fire conservation status: Not listed.

What percentage of its habitat burned? 100% of known range burnt, at high intensity.

Priority actions: Detailed surveys of unburnt refugia for surviving populations.
Photo: Mike Rix/Author provided

The Toolbrunup spiny trapdoor spider
Cataxia colesi

The Toolbrunup spiny trapdoor spider is found only in a very restricted area in the Stirling Range National Park, with a geographic range of less than ten square kilometres. It lives in mountainous woodland habitat, in burrows 20 centimetres deep. The spiders adorn the entrances of their burrows with leaves or sticks, creating an ornate, radiating pattern. The interacting effects of recent fires and vegetation dieback, combined with its highly restricted distribution, have made this species highly vulnerable.

Pre-fire conservation status: Not listed

What percentage of its habitat burned? 95% of known range burnt

Priority actions: Survey for surviving populations.
Photo: Mark Harvey, WA Museum
- Jess Marsh, Research fellow at the Harry Butler Institute, Murdoch University
Woody plants are foundational elements of Australian vegetation. Most people are familiar with wattles and gum trees and, collectively, 74 species of eucalyptus and acacia were identified as high priority for management interventions after the fires. But Australia has more than 10,000 other woody species which contribute to our vast plant diversity, and the fire affected many of these.

Some plant species can bounce back after being burnt by storing their seed in the canopy, and then resprouting after the fire. The species perhaps most at risk are those lacking this ability. Where the fire burnt most of the habitat of species with a soil-stored seed bank, such as the nightcap oak (Eidothea hardeniana), many mature adult plants may now be lost.

Two of the trees and shrubs of greatest concern are:

Braidwood waratah
Telopea mongaensis

This tree has been a part of the Australian landscape since its evolution, prior to the break-up of Gondwana. It has large, red flowers and can be found in areas with lots of water, such as along streams and in rainforest habitats. It’s a close relative of the NSW floral emblem, the waratah (Telopea speciosissima). It’s vulnerability to fire is high, due to the interacting effects of fire and disease on the species ability to recover.

Pre-fire conservation status: Not listed

What percentage of habitat burned? Approx. 60%

Priority actions: Exclude forestry impacts, disease management, field inspections to assess resprouting and seedling emergence

Mount Imlay Boronia
Boronia imlayensis

This is a showy, pink-flowered shrub found only in eucalypt woodland on a ridge top on Mt Imlay, near Eden in NSW. In this highly restricted range, at least 96% was burnt. Pre-fire drought conditions may have seriously compromised the ability of the shrub to resprout after the fires. Without adequate recovery of populations, this species is at risk of extinction.

Pre-fire conservation status: Not listed

What percentage of habitat burned?: 96%

Priority actions: Field inspections to assess resprouting and seedling emergence
- Rachael Gallagher, Senior Lecturer at Macquarie University
Non-woody plants may often be overlooked, but they're the unsung heroes of Australian biodiversity. Known in plant science as herbs, they include bulbs, rushes, annuals, grasses, lilies and stunning bush orchids.

With more than 10,000 species in Australia, these soft-bodied members of the plant world will often vanish when conditions become dry. When rains arrive, they resprout from underground organs, residual stems or soil seed banks. Herb species often flower prolificly after fire. Yet some, such as those with vulnerable seed banks, may die when fires are frequent or intense.

Species such as the filmy fern (Hymenophyllum pumilum) prefer fire-free locations, because their remarkable tissue-thin leaves rely on near constant dripping water to prevent drying out.

Tree-dwelling and ground orchids will also occur in habitats where fire is rare. These species, such as the blue-tongued greenhood orchid from NSW, live in leaf litter and are particularly vulnerable to fire.

Bago Leek Orchid
Prasophyllum bagoense

This multi-flowered, fragrant orchid grows to 40 centimetres high at flowering. It’s found in grassy forest in a single location in the Bago State Forest in NSW, where fewer than 100 are estimated to exist. The species is highly restricted, with fire impacting an estimated 95% of its range. Without intervention, this species faces extinction due to the small number of individual plants, the restricted range and specialised habitat.

Pre-fire conservation status: Critically endangered

What percentage of its habitat burned? 95%

Priority actions: Surveys in spring 2020 to assess surviving plants; undertake hand pollination and seed collection to commence in vitro germination; controls to grazing by caging plants.

Bredbo gentian
Gentiana bredboensis

This diminutive herb grows to just ten centimetres tall, and has pale blue flowers. With fewer than 200 plants, the species is known from a single location in a herbfield near Bredbo in NSW.

The species germinates annually from a soil seed bank and may survive for up to two years. However, gentians like this are known to have specific mycorrhizal associations (fungus assisted growth), which makes them vulnerable to habitat disturbance, such as intense fire or high frequency burning.

Without active intervention, seed collection and habitat restoration this species faces imminent extinction.

Pre-fire conservation status: Critically endangered

What percentage of its habitat burned? 95%

Priority actions: Survey to locate surviving plants; seed collection and off-site propagation; habitat restoration and weed control
Photo: Australian Network for Planty Conservation, CC BY-NC-ND
- Kingsley Dixon, John Curtin Distinguished Professor at Curtin University
Grasses and grass-like plants are in the rush, sedge and grass families. While each family is unrelated, they have similarities in their rhizomes (underground plant stems) that contain regenerating buds and strappy or thin leaves in tussocks, hummocks or large clumps.

Their underground rhizomes have soil-protected buds that ensure many of these species resprout after grazing or following fire. But some species are thought to have become very rare, as high frequency fires remove regenerating seedlings. This includes Drummond’s grass from restricted areas of the heavily burnt Stirling Range in WA

For species that grow in dense clumps, high intensity fire may lead to the rhizome clusters burning out, and a loss of the resprouting buds. This is what happened in the majestic saw sedge genus Gahnia from NSW and Kangaroo Island. How such plants will recolonise after such losses is uncertain. This is because the seed bank can be short-lived and long-distance dispersal is limited.

Microlaena stipoides var breviseta

With no common name, this weeping grass grows from Shoalhaven to Southern Highlands and Blue Mountains in NSW, though it’s not common. The plant grows sparsely, and so is often overlooked when it’s not in flower or seeding.

But fire impacts, compounded by drought and soil erosion, may result in the species being debilitated to the point of being unable to resprout. As with all weeping grasses, this species is highly palatable to grazing animals, and grazing following the fires would have an adverse impact on the plant.

Pre-fire conservation status: Not listed

What percentage of its habitat burned? 63%

Priority actions: Monitor plants for seed collection for seed banking and field inspections to assess resprouting and seedling emergence

Gahnia filifolia

This species, another with no official common name, is part of a broad group of sedges that favour moist to seasonally damp areas. But this rare and restricted plant occurs in drier sites than what’s usual for its genus in the Blue Mountains to Budawang Range.

This means species will have suffered from severe droughts before being struck by the intense impacts of the recent fires. Though capable of resprouting from a near-surface rhizome, drought-affected plants may have perished.

Pre-fire conservation status: Not listed

How much of its habitat burned? 55-61%

Priority actions: Field inspections to assess resprouting and seedling emergence and collect seeds plus undertake strategic erosion control if required.
Image: Tony Rodd/Flickr - CC BY-NC-SA
- Kingsley Dixon, John Curtin Distinguished Professor at Curtin University