Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The SCA have burnt off along Tourist Road

I received a phone message from Lucy yesterday, letting me know that the SCA were burning off the Kangaloon Aquifer Special Area, opposite her house. In fact the fire went from the fire trail which runs to Belmore Crossing, (opposite "Boxvale") and along Tourist Road to Wallaby Creek (near Kirkland Road). It appears the fire might have gone through the drier forest around the back of Butler's Swamp as well, but it did not burn anywhere within sight of Butler's Swamp.

I called by this afternoon, and spoke with Lucy, after the fires had died down. The fire seems to have been a fairly precisely controlled "burn off", and is mostly restricted to the shrubbery. Obviously there has been some tree damage, with old hollow trees catching fire (inside their trunks) and they smoulder and burn inside, then fall over.

More importantly, they seem to have managed it as a "cold burn", restricted mostly to the undergrowth, leaving the trees more-or-less untouched. Some of the leaves of the Scribbly Gums appear to have been singed, but hopefully the trees will recover quickly, not go through that whole "bushfire recovery strategy" which Gum Trees are famous for. That strategy is used when the whole tree has been burnt, and all leaves lost. Tiny buds under the bark are then triggered into "regrowth". Trouble is the trees grow from these buds all over the tree, and they tend to lose their shape. But even that is not a permanent problem. Eventually "leaders" establish themselves again.

The shrubbery in this area must not be burnt again for at least seven years, as that is the minimum amount of time which is required for Waratahs and many other members of the Proteaceae tribe to grow from seed (after a fire), mature, flower and set seed again. More frequent burning can eliminate these plants. This is a serious risk - one which is well understood by National Parks and Wildlife Service and environmentalists. One hopes that the SCA also appreciate the risks involved in their planned burn-off policies.

Persoonia glaucescens (flower close-up)
As this shrubbery is distinguished as a very diverse population of Proteaceous shrubs, including the endangered Mittagong Geebung (Persoonia glaucescens), and also (supposedly) the home of the fabled White Waratah, then the SCA has a mighty responsibility to protect these plants. So, they really need to demonstrate that they have a professional Fire Management Plan for this area.

One hopes that the National Parks and Wildlife Service has an input to the SCA's fire management. But I doubt it.

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