Regeneration after Fire

jarrah growing back after fire

In March there was a deliberately lit fire in Star Swamp Bushland Reserve. Last month, after time and rain, I went to see how the regeneration was progressing and it was amazing. The birds were singing everywhere. Ben from Nuts about Natives told me the dead looking zamias would be fine and they were sprouting up everywhere (from their burnt base).

zamia growing back after fire

Grass trees (Xanthorrhoea preissii) and zamia (Macrozamia fraseri) were the most noticeably green after being burnt totally black by the fire. Many of the trees (including tuart, jarrah, marri and banksia) had dead leaves or none at all, but were sprouting leaves at the base or from branches.

xanthorrhoea growing back after fire

Some trees had not sprouted back because the fire had killed them, but their death makes way for other plants to grow nearby where previously they would have been shaded or not had enough resources available. The seeds of many endemic plants will not grow until after fire so the fire was just what they needed. The spaces opened up by the fire also allow weeds to spread, which is happening.

banksia growing back after fire

The reserve is only 96 hectares and in the middle of suburban housing, so there are no endemic mammals (apart from bats), but there are reptiles such as snakes and lizards. Some may have been killed, but not all the reserve was burnt and reptiles which survived in the unburnt parts could recolonise the other areas.

raven at Star Swamp

The birds didn’t seem disturbed a week after the fire (although there were none in the still-hot parts) when I went to Star Swamp in March because they could fly away from the fire. Most birds nest from winter to summer, and by March offspring would hopefully have left the nest. Some species breed any time of the year, such as willy wagtails and some wattlebirds and honeyeaters.

burnt out hollow trunk

The burning of mature trees provides hollows which are used by a number of bird species for nesting. Hopefully hollows were created high enough in the trees to enable future nesting.

marri growing back after fire

There is a semi-permanent freshwater lake, hence the name Star Swamp, and this area was burnt. There would not have been much water at the time because it was the end of summer and frogs, insects, etc may have perished in the fire, although frogs or eggs buried deep enough could survive.

tuart growing back after fire

Despite life coming back to the bush, the fire was arson and lit at the end of summer, a time of high temperatures, winds and little rain for months. It should not have happened, but Australian plants and animals have evolved to survive such occurrences and it was beautiful to see this endurance in action.


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