Fire-resistant landscaping for your most valuable asset - your home!
February 18, 2013
The Meredith Couch - Art with a Purpose
December 11, 2014
Post-fire Landscape Recovery
December 28, 2015
After a catastrophic event such as the bushfires at Wye River in the last few days, landowners will be experiencing shock and distress at the loss of property and the apparent destruction of the beautiful landscape that they have loved for many years.
Amid the turmoil of counting the cost of the damage and coming to grips with the prospect of rebuilding homes and lives, we should remember that the natural systems have also experienced a major disruption, and take steps to understand and help the process of regeneration and recovery.
Fire is a natural process that native vegetation has adapted to over thousands of years. In fact many plants, such as Eucalypts, not only endure fires but have adaptive features that encourage and facilitate it. Although burnt sites appear to be devastated, fire can be beneficial in maintaining habitat diversity and the survival of many species of plants and animals.
Though the instinctive reaction of many people is that widespread re planting is needed, the good news is that this is rarely required - the landscape will recover without the need for planting, and in fact it’s best to let the natural ecological processes take their course. In the coming months and years a proliferation of regrowth will occur without requiring any intervention on our part.
In the immediate aftermath of a wild fire, however, when only blackened vegetation and ashes can be seen, the landscape is in a fragile state and is susceptible to both positive and negative change.
The major actions that landowners need to consider are to :
Prevent soil erosion – While the soil is bare over the first few weeks it is highly prone to erosion that not only results in the loss of topsoil but in siltation of waterways downhill, particularly in steeply sloping sites such as along the Surf Coast. This can be managed by placing silt fencing across the slope at regular intervals or at key locations such as above batter slopes, dams and drainage swales. On steep slopes an open-weave jute mesh or ‘brushing’ with small branches may be required, and weed-free straw bales or coir logs can be used along open drains.
Minimise disturbance – Stick to existing tracks where possible to avoid soil compaction and be aware that soil brought in on machinery may be spreading the plant disease Phytopthora, that is known to be present elsewhere in the Otways.
Control grazing – Rabbits, kangaroos and domestic stock enjoy grazing on new growth which can prevent or severely impact the natural regeneration of many native plants. Patch existing fencing to exclude stock in the short term, and contact your local Landcare for help with feral animal control. In the longer term this may be an opportunity to re-think fence locations to better protect bushland.
Control weeds – If environmental weeds were present before the fire it is likely that there will be a proliferation of weed seedlings, along with seedlings of native vegetation. You may need some help to identify the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ seedlings, and the effort of follow-up weeding may initially be high in the short term, but fire event offers a unique opportunity to control many weed species that spread by seed. If left alone however it can be the beginning of a new and more intense infestation of these weeds!
A post-fire landscape recovery plan should take into consideration these threats and other site issues such as managing the impact of emergency works, earthworks and demolition, replacing lost habitat, and clearing of vegetation.
With a little help the blackened bushland will recover, and you can create a landscape that helps to defend your home from fire in the future, while maintaining the values of the bushland that you’ve always loved !