The 2019/20 wildfire season was devastating for Australia’s biodiversity and unprecedented in its extent and severity, yet the consequences for sites important for biodiversity and other world heritage values remain unknown. Here, we summarise the 2019/20 wildfire impacts on key sites set aside for, or identified as being important for, biodiversity, with specific reference to nationally designated protected areas, World Heritage Listings, and Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs). We also explore patterns between burn extent or severity, and underlying landscape characteristics. Over seven months, approximately 10 million hectares (ha) of native vegetation burned. Of these burned landscapes, ~3.2 million ha (41%) were within the Australian protected area estate (n = 815 and impacted >0.1% of each protected area). Six Australian World Heritage Listings were impacted by the 2019/20 wildfires, with the largest impact being in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area (680,000 ha or 67% was affected by the fires). The 2019/20 fires impacted over 2 million ha across 69 KBAs. Of these, 18 KBAs had >15% of their area burned. Critically, for the management of intact and recovering forests, we show that the degree of forest integrity and ecosystem intactness affected fire severity: more degraded forests and ecosystems experienced higher severity burns in the protected area estate and KBAs. Recovery for many of these places will require targeted effort and resources to help reduce the likelihood of future megafires, as well as increased resilience in the face of other catastrophic environmental events.

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