The catastrophic impacts of the 2019-2020 mega-fires of eastern and southern Australia received extensive media coverage, with smoke blanketing the major cities of the east coast and surrounding regions for months. Many people seeing the stark images of blackened forest landscapes thought these environments were “completely destroyed” by the bushfires. Here we assess the published peer-reviewed scientific literature to address five related questions:
1. Are bushfires a natural part of the Australian forest environment?
2. How do forests persist in the face of recurrent bushfires?
3. How do animals and fire sensitive ecosystems persist in fireprone landscapes?
4. Are bushfires ecologically destructive?
5. How do bushfires interact with other disturbances?