We consider ourselves very lucky to call the World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains our home, however the recent bush fires that swept our region along with the many other bush fire prone areas around Australia, left us completely heart broken.
Over the summer we witnessed the devastation of homes, bushland, wildlife and the significant trauma experienced with the bushfires. The devastation effected many of our immediate friends, family and community as well as our fellow Australians further afield. As such, we would like to mention that by way of writing this article, we don’t want to make light in any way of a very significant and traumatic chain of events.
However as we rebuild as a community and a country, and seek to heal from the effects of the fires, we decided to spend some time looking into the regeneration process of the Australian bush. As new life begins to sprout in our local area, along with 2020 being the United Nations international year of plant health, we feel this is the perfect time to share with you some insight into the amazing process of Mother Nature.
Within the incredibly beautiful colours of the new growth contrasted against the black charred landscape, we also see new life and hope. It felt fitting that the metaphors that nature shows us within its rejuvenation, there is a lesson in resilience, hope and renewal, which we can learn from as a community.
So, with that in mind, here are some interesting facts that we learned about the Australian Bush and the effects of fire in the regeneration process. At the bottom of the article we have also included some tips to support it’s rebirth and links for you to further explore this fascinating process.
We were particularly interested to find out that many of the Native Australian plants are able to recover from being burned, as bushfires are an inevitable occurrence. In fact, some plants in the Australian Bush are pyrophytic, which means that in some cases, a plant species can even thrive after fire.
Australian Eucalyptus trees for example actually depend to some extent on fire for regeneration. They hold seeds in a capsule that are released after the fire, sometimes as soon as a few days after a burn. The seeds release into soil, which has become more nutrient rich with ash.
The Ash left in the soil helps to prepare seed bed by providing beneficial nutrients such as potash.
Nitrogen is also vital for plant growth, as it supplies the basic building blocks of cells. During a fire, most of the nitrogen within the plant is lost to the atmosphere. However after a fire, many of the first plants that appear are native legumes such as wattle (acacias) and other flowering plants that convert nitrogen from the atmosphere and then work to rebuild the nitrogen supplies in the soil, making them available to all the plants in the area.
Due to the reduction of the tree canopy overhead, there is an increase in light at ground level. This, in conjunction with the reduction of plant eating insects, offers new plants a better environment to grow. The warmer soil temperature of late summer along with the increased rainfall of autumn helps to further support their establishment.
Some species of native eucalyptus and banksia carry woody structures that emerge from beneath the ground called ‘linotubers’. This is one of the plants survival mechanisms, in that it has buds that sprout from beneath the forest floor surface, to grow new foliages when it is damaged.
The fires also work to eradicate weeds, in turn supporting weed management which would normally be controlled by herbicides, bio control agents or mechanical treatments. We kind of see it as a sweep clean for non-native species.
Of course the fires our country experienced were incredibly wide spread, so we cannot be certain of how quickly and efficiently the regeneration process will take. However, if we are more educated in these incredible processes of nature, we can effectively be more conscious of where we tread during the regeneration process and the importance of stepping back, to allow nature to work its magic.
Should you choose to visit a bush fire effected region and immerse yourself within nature, we would like to share the following tips to help support Mother Nature in her rebirth:
Stick to the tracks.
To allow the new plant life its best possible chance to grow, please do not venture off designated bush walk paths. This will allow the new fragile little plants a safer environment to establish.
Take your rubbish with you.
This includes seeded plant foods. Introduced species can inhabit growth of native plants, adding threatening weeds to the area.
When going Bush, keep the pets at home.
Pets may trample the growth of new plants, and unattended can act as predators to wildlife. If there is a more important time to protect the wildlife, it is most certainly now.
To learn more about the plant recovery process of the Australian Bush after fire, look here: