In January and February 2020, the Orroral Valley Fire burnt more than 80% of Namadgi National Park in the ACT, leaving large areas blackened and apparently lifeless.
Monitoring the recovery of Namadgi National Park from the Orroral Valley fire has occurred since the fire. This is managed by the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate within the Department of Environment, Heritage and Water. They have just released a great visual report on the recovery of animals and vegetation communities in the park. It is mostly good news.
Some highlights from the report:
Many Candle Bark forests and Snow Gums are recovering quite well.
The rate of recovery appears to be strongly affected by moisture availability.
Wetter sites, such as Snow Gum woodland near Mt Franklin Road, are recovering faster. Snow Gums on drier and rockier sites are demonstrating less recovery.
One exception to the general pattern of good recovery is Alpine Ash (Eucalyptus delegatensis), which is killed by intense fire and must regenerate from seed.
It is uncertain how well Alpine Ash will recover after two intense fires only 18 years apart; Conservation Research ecologists are currently assessing the degree of fire impact and the extent of recovery in Namadgi’s Alpine Ash forests.
Fortunately, some important stands of Alpine Ash were not affected by the Orroral Valley fire. A total of 2,415 ha, or 33% of the Alpine Ash forest in Namadgi, did not burn in 2020.
Some species can benefit from burning.
By killing shrubs, removing leaf litter and creating areas of bare ground, the fire resulted in ideal conditions for the germination of short-lived herbs and grasses.
Billy buttons (Craspedia sp.) covered the burnt slopes of Mt Gingera in November. Later they faded and set seed, to be replaced by other brightly-coloured species. By February, bluebells and paper daisies (Xerochrysum spp.) were the dominant flowers.
We may not see another flowering event like this for years or decades.
How are fauna populations recovering?
Although the fire took a heavy toll on animals, many survived, either in unburnt or lightly-burnt patches or by taking shelter beneath the ground.
The first teams onto the fire ground found a surprising number of birds (click unmute background audio to listen), mammals, invertebrates, frogs and reptiles,
Preliminary results are encouraging. The burnt areas of Namadgi still ring with an impressive array of singing birds.