Search

Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

Tag

fire

Getting ready for the next Big One

As Victoria shivers through a good, old fashioned winter, it might be a strange time to be thinking about fire. But next fire season will be with us soon enough, and there are some lessons for us from the horror summer currently being experienced in the northern hemisphere.

A 1.5 million hectare bushfire is raging in Siberia, and Alaska is burning. So are large parts of Turkey. The ‘heat dome’ that brought record breaking temperatures to the Pacific North West of North America has been followed by a fire season comparable with what we experienced over the terrible summer of 2019/20. California is experiencing a fire season that started in their winter. In January, Issac Sanchez, of Cal Fire Sacramento said “we’re not seeing ‘fire season’ any more. It’s just one big fire year, where we can be prepared for and expect a large destructive fire at any point.”

Continue reading “Getting ready for the next Big One”

Lessons from the Tasmanian fires of 2018/19: state has entered a ‘new era of bushfire risk’

Over the summer of 2018/19 huge fires burnt across Tasmania. An independent review of Tasmania’s management of the summer bushfires was released in August 2019. It found inadequacies in the response to the fire burning near Geeveston, and revealed that crews withdrew from the Gell River fire in Tasmania’s southwest in the mistaken belief it was out. The fire then expanded again and became out of control.

The report made a series of recommendations

Now, a comprehensive study examining the 2018/19 and the experience of authorities and affected groups by Insurance Group Zurich has found that the state has entered a ‘new era of bushfire risk’.

“Since the turn of the millennium, climate change and land use change have converged to bring about a new fire regime in Tasmania,” Zurich’s first Australian Post-Event Review Capability (PERC) report said.

More than two thousand dry lightning strikes hit the state during that summer, igniting 70 fires that formed into four massive fire complexes. Over 95,000 hectares of protected land was burnt.

Continue reading “Lessons from the Tasmanian fires of 2018/19: state has entered a ‘new era of bushfire risk’”

Community views on managing bushfire risk

As governments grapple with the threat posed by climate driven fire seasons, there is an ongoing debate about the role of fuel reduction burning (also called proscribed burning). While many experts agree that fuel reduction does play an important role in fire management, it is growing increasingly ineffective as fires become more severe and more frequent due to the impacts of climate change. While planned burning (and other fuel management techniques) can alter fuel loads, it must be carefully applied to reduce the risk of bushfire.

The Victorian government is currently running a survey about attitudes in local communities about how to manage bushfire risk.

Continue reading “Community views on managing bushfire risk”

Threatened Species and Fire Recovery: a special community event

Endangered snow leopards or mountain gorillas? Not in Australia – but we do have native animals and plants threatened with extinction, right here in the Upper Ovens Valley.

The Upper Ovens Valley Landcare Group is hosting a special community event on Saturday June 19 to explore the ecology of some of these very special local species, why they are at risk and what can be done about it.  

Continue reading “Threatened Species and Fire Recovery: a special community event”

Alpine Ecology Workshop

On May 1, an alpine ecology workshop was held at Dinner Plain, which had a focus on alpine peatlands.

The day was supported by a range of groups and featured fantastic presentations from peatland experts, followed by a wander and chat through some of the peatland systems that exist in Dinner Plain. It brought together locals, people interested in alpine ecology from the broader region, and a wonderful cast of experts. One of the key messages I took from the forum was that fire is a grave short-term threat to peatlands and already impacting widely on this vegetation community.

Congratulations to Gail Owen, a Dinner Plain resident and member of the BDPO Landcare Group, High Country Landcare Facilitator Lisa Lee and NECMA Biodiversity Project Officer, Phillip Falcke, and Bev Lawrence and Aviya Naccarella from Mt Hotham Alpine Resort Management for organising an excellent and informative day.

Continue reading “Alpine Ecology Workshop”

Alpine Ecology workshop at Dinner Plain

This full day workshop will happen at the community centre at Dinner Plain on Saturday May 1.

It will feature a great range of speakers, covering:

  • alpine peatland ecology
  • fire and alpine environments
  • opportunities to be involved in ecosystem restoration in the high country.

Continue reading “Alpine Ecology workshop at Dinner Plain”

Tracking Snow Gum decline

Alpine Ash is a quintessential tree of the higher foothill country of the Australian Alps. It is facing an existential threat from fire. It has had 84% of it’s range burnt since 2002. Fires have burnt 84% of the bioregion’s 355,727 hectares of alpine ash forest, with 65% burnt in 2002/03 in the north of the Alps, 30% burnt in 2006/2007 in the south, and a smaller area (2%) burnt in 2009. Four per cent of the forest area was burnt twice within five years. And last summer, additional areas were burnt in the east of the state. This has led to scientists warning that large sections of Alpine Ash forests are on the verge of collapse.

Snow gums are the classic alpine tree of the mainland, generally growing at heights between 1,300 and 1,800 metres asl. But wildfire has also been devastating large swathes of snow gum habitat, with significant fires in the Victorian High Country in 1998, 2002/3, 2006/7 and 2013. Much of Kosciuszko National Park was burnt in 2003. South Eastern Australia suffered from a drought that lasted more than a decade and this greatly increased the severity of the fires that have occurred since the turn of the 21st century. The result of the fires is that often the parent tree has been killed back to ground level, with subsequent re-shooting of leaves from lignotuber buds under the bark. In this way, individual trees can exist through various ‘lives’, often surviving multiple fires.

The Victorian government is now so concerned about the threat of fire on Alpine Ash communities that it has launched a seeding program to help the species survive.

As yet the government does not see the need to intervene in the same way with Snow Gums.

Continue reading “Tracking Snow Gum decline”

Ghost Forests of the High Country

Over 90% of the Victorian distribution of snow gums has been burned at least once since 2003. Some areas have been burnt multiple times, and this is impacting on the ability of these forests to recover. Like other Eucalypts, Snow Gums are fire adapted and can recover via new seedlings or regrowth from the base of the tree. However, repeated fires within a short period of time can kill the parent forest and destroy seedlings.

Continue reading “Ghost Forests of the High Country”

Post fire recovery in Kosciuszko National Park

Since the fires of last summer there has been a lot of conservation recovery and rehabilitation work carried out in and around Kosciuszko National Park. Recently the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) hosted an update on the work that has been done, through a forum called Conservation in Action, which was held in Tumut.

As we know, a lot of Kosciuszko National Park was heavily impacted by the fires. Dan Nicholls, from the NPWS gave an outline of some of the work carried out since then, which includes:

Continue reading “Post fire recovery in Kosciuszko National Park”

Dargo High Plains subjected to intensive logging

The Dargo High Plains are a much loved part of the Victorian high country, with extensive open plains surrounded by eucalypt forests, much of which is dominated by Alpine Ash (Eucalyptus delegatensis). Alpine Ash is one of the iconic trees of the Victorian mountains, where it is widespread and often dominant in grassy or wet subalpine forests, in deep fertile soil, often on slopes, and where it commonly forms pure stands. In Victoria it occurs at altitudes between 900 and 1,500 m (3,000 and 4,900 ft). The high points of the Dargo High Plains sit roughly between 1,300 and 1,500 metres above sea level.

Only 0.47% of old growth Alpine Ash still exists in the forests of the Central Highlands. In the mountain ranges of north eastern Victoria and East Gippsland, old growth Ash is now rare, and ‘tens of thousands’ of hectares of forest are on the verge of ecological collapse.

Sections of the Plains have burnt several times in recent years, including the summer of 2018/19. Considerable sections of the Plains Ash forests have been logged in the past. Now, the state government has scheduled a number of logging coupes of long unburnt forest, which threatens to devastate the fringes of the high plains.

The logging program in the High Plains area appears to include roading through the Alpine National Park to access the coupes on the east side of the plateau.

Continue reading “Dargo High Plains subjected to intensive logging”

Dead forests making bushfires worse

We know that climate change is making fire seasons longer and more intense. This is happening globally. It has enormous implications for the landscapes that we love, how we prepare for and fight fires, and even how we live in fire prone areas.

These fires are transforming the landscapes we know and love. Anyone who has driven out of Jindabyne into the Snowy Mountains, or Mt Beauty towards the Bogong High Plains knows what I am talking about – endless walls of grey, dead trees. Only 0.47% of old growth Alpine Ash still exists in Victoria. This has huge implications for the aesthetics of our mountain areas, and significant ecological implications.

Increased fire frequency could see mountain forests like Alpine Ash replaced by wattle woodlands. As recently noted by Brett McNamara, the manager of Namadgi National Park:

Recovery happens but it is “tainted with a sense of what does the future hold for us if we are to experience fire again and again with such intensity. This is where the question is unanswered. What these mountains will look like well into the future?”

The huge volumes of dead trees from previous fires also creates a lot of fuel that is already dry and hence ready to burn in future fires. What are the implications of this for our fire fighting and land management efforts?

Continue reading “Dead forests making bushfires worse”

Subalpine forests struggle to recover after 2019-20 bushfires

The Bushfire Recovery Project, led by five scientists, is tracking forest regrowth in NSW and Victoria after last summer’s fires, using data gathered by citizen scientists.

Their report has found that while low elevation forests on the NSW south coast appear to be recovering well, forests in some subalpine areas ‘near Mount Kosciuszko and in Victoria’s East Gippsland region are struggling to recover from the 2019-20 bushfires’.

This is consistent with everything we already know about the impact of climate driven fire seasons on the higher elevation Alpine Ash forests and Snow Gum woodlands.

Continue reading “Subalpine forests struggle to recover after 2019-20 bushfires”

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑