A kangaroo flees across a road from a bushfire in Victoria
earlier this month. REUTERS/Australian Broadcasting
Soaring fire risks mean tough decisions will soon have to
be made about restricting urban growth in some ''wildland''
areas near cities in the United States and Australia, an
American researcher says.
Prof Thomas Veblen is a forest ecologist at the University of
Colorado and is vice-president and one of the founders of the
This is an international collaboration involving biologists
and geologists whose research interests include the southern
More than 300 people from about 35 countries have this week
attended the group's latest five-day conference, which
focused on ''Southern Lands and Southern Oceans: Life on the
Edge?'' The gathering ended at the University of Otago
yesterday. Prof Veblen, who has also worked in Chile and New
Zealand, has a specialty research interest in wildfire
Giant bushfires were already raising serious concerns about
the viability and sustainability of settlements in some parts
of Australia, he said. The present situation in Australia
provided a preview of what life would be like on the West
Coast of the United States as global warming continued, he
In many cases, firefighting ''first responders'' were putting
their lives at risk and some people were already living in
''extremely dangerous'' locations, with a high risk of fire.
He was trying to encourage authorities on the US West Coast
to ''restrict future residential development in these
''Enormous'' costs were involved in any measures to try to
reduce the fuel loading in such wildland areas.
Prof Mary Kalin Arroyo, a New Zealand alpine ecologist who
has been living and working in Chile for more than 30 years,
said the Dunedin conference had been highly successful.
Southern hemisphere scientists had been increasing the
effectiveness of their research on climate change by
collaborating in multi-country groupings within the region,