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Regeneration after bush fire

Our Australian landscape has been historically shaped by fire in many ways. The plants and animals have evolved adaptations to cope with fire, and many even need fire to survive. However, the role of climate change and habitat loss combined, conditions globally are rapidly changing.

Fires this season have been incredibly intense, you can’t help but wonder how will our ecosystem cope? 

An article done by Melbourne University “Why Australia’s severe bushfires may be bad news for tree regeneration” explains how these fires may have impacted native trees.
Here are some quick and interesting points from the article:

  • The intensity and the frequency of fires has a big impact on the post-fire recovery of tree populations.
  • Our trees have adapted to historical fire intensities, which have ranged from low for rainforests, to very high for the highly productive alpine ash forests.
  • This season’s fires are of concern due to their sheer scale, resulting from prolonged dry conditions and very low fuel moistures, combined with ‘unrelenting’ severe fire weather.
  • By all accounts, these fires have burned all in their path – not stopping for gullies – meaning that rainforests have likely burned at intensities well beyond their historical range.
  • Such high fire intensities might even challenge the re-sprouting capacity of the most fire-tolerant eucalypts.
  • Two high-severity fires in quick succession (2002/03, 2006/07) have led to the near elimination of alpine ash from some areas in Victoria’s Alps.
  • The proportion of snow gum trees killed outright by fire increased to 50 per cent after three high-severity fires in 2003, 2007 and 2013.
  • Our trees have evolved with fire and most need some fire for renewal, but lately many of our forests have had too much severe fire. This pattern seems set to continue given projections of a hotter, drier climate for eastern Australia.

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