The 184 hectare area where the burn was conducted has not, according to Patrick Centurino, been burned for 14 years. The land was mostly within the National Park and the fire was set along a line from the water reservoir near the Forts back towards and along the Arcadia to Nelly walking track.
A grass-tree regenerates after burning
Readers may be aware that many Australian plant species require fire to assist in triggering germination of their seeds. But for the management of the park, which abuts residential housing, and to lessen the destruction of a future wildfire, the need to lessen the fuel build-up by controlled burns is also considered necessary.
A fully grown poplar gum amidst the
more recent incursion of dense acacia.
According to Patrick Centurino the area focussed on had experienced a substantial change in vegetation type with short-lived acacias (or wattle) predominating beneath the larger eucalyptus species. "We were very sensitive to the tall-standing trees and you notice more fully adult trees alive and standing which would indicate perhaps 100 years of vegetation and alongside them were dead trees of a similar size - perhaps showing us another 100 years back and that the pre-European landscape was a grassy open woodland."
As these parts were now chocked by, often dead and fuel creating, acacias the intention was to burn the acacias with a fire that was fast enough to kill living scrub and not hot enough to germinate their fire-triggered seeds. "We also tried to burn out as much fallen acacia to avoid a ladder effect (where flames leap up fallen branches to burn the crowns and kill larger trees) in future fires.
Patrick Centurino welcomes discussion over the strategies and approach and admits that some parts will look rather scrappy after the fire. "But a second burn in six years time will bring it much closer to what we want"
In a later message Patrick told magnetictimes.com that, "When we were burning, right in the middle of the Nelly to Arcadia track, a cane toad came out of the fire. I have to admit I was pretty sure cane toads weren't in the hills before that"
Story: George Hirst
Cartoon (from the 1990s) by Gavin Ryan
Photos courtesy QPWS
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