In January and February 2020, the Orroral Valley Fire burnt more than 80% of Namadgi National Park in the ACT. Since then, monitoring and recovery efforts have sought to protect damaged environments and aid the recovery of the park.
A report released in 2021 showed that some areas and forest types were recovering well (for instance, many Candle Bark forests and Snow Gums) however the news was grimmer for other vegetation types like Alpine Ash.
Two years on, it is clear that full recovery will take many years and sections of the park will never be the same. Mature-aged native forest may never return to parts of Namadgi National Park because climate change is impacting regeneration.
Namadgi National Park Director Peter Cotsell says that ‘under normal circumstances’ they would expect to see the park return to its former glory.
“But when you bring in the changes we’re experiencing and projections of more regular bushfires and more intense floods, we might see the park change completely.”
The monetary cost of recovery was estimated at around $10 million.
According to reporting in The Canberra Times:
ACT Parks has applied for around $6 million in Commonwealth funding through the Black Summer initiative for projects including engagement with the Ngunnawal community in park management and major infrastructure projects.
Mr Cotsell said Namadgi was currently going through what was called Succession Theory where the park had responded to the bushfires and was in a transitional state.
“We’re seeing quite open woodlands because a lot of canopy has been burned,” he said.
Mr Cotsell said while the scarcity of shade impacted regrowth, they had begun to see more grasses and flowers emerge and would soon see the movement of more reptiles.
Programs were under way to control invasive species like rabbits, pigs and deer while the park transitioned, Mr Cotsell said.
“The species probably most at threat are our alpine ash which don’t respond well to fire,” he said.
“Under a climate change scenario where it tends to get warmer those ecosystems are likely to shrink throughout the park.”
With tall canopy coverage only just returning in 2020 following the fires in 2003, it is thought the bushfire cycle could prevent the aged-class forests return.
Mr Cotsell said while La Nina was making access difficult, they welcomed the wet.
“In terms of natural regeneration it’s been an overwhelmingly positive response,” he said.