Bush and revegetation recovery on farms after fire

Page last updated: Wednesday, 20 February 2019 - 9:34am

Strong fires will cause significant damage to bush on farms and may devastate revegetation areas.

Patches of bush in good condition will generally regenerate, although there are many factors that prevent recovery to the previous condition. These factors require extra management to reduce their impact.

Revegetation areas are much more susceptible to fire, and recovery largely depends on the age of the revegetation and after-fire management.

Factors affecting recovery

Size and condition of the bush patch

Smaller patches have fewer species to recover and lower seed reserves. They are also more susceptible to weed and nutrient invasion because of the large edge-to-area ratio.

Grazing pressure on fresh regrowth

Farm, native and introduced animals find fresh regrowth attractive and accessible.

Intensity of the fire

Light fires can help release seed from damaged plants, provide smoke to increase germination of many species, and provide small ash beds with conditions suitable for germination. Intense fires can kill and remove mature plants, destroy seed reserves and open the area to invasive weeds.

Age and composition of revegetation areas

Revegetation that has not yet started producing seed is likely to be killed by fire and not regenerate. Seedlings planted in small patches killed by fire often die because of the competition with larger surviving plants. Weed control in these areas – to reduce competition for moisture, nutrients and light – is necessary to improve survival of seedlings.

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Management

Reduce grazing pressure

  • Fence to exclude livestock.
  • Control vermin: rabbits can destroy considerable amounts of fresh growth and controlling rabbits is easier while groundcover is removed, the warrens are exposed and accessible, and rabbit numbers are lower.
  • Control rabbits outside the affected area.
  • Control native grazers where possible: kangaroos and wallabies can cause considerable damage to fresh growth.

Leave trash and ash beds to provide niches for natural regeneration

  • Only remove burnt material that is a health and safety hazard, such as dead trees that could fall and threaten people’s safety, buildings or fencelines.
  • Burnt trash and undisturbed ash beds provide some protection from wind and water erosion following fires, and provide better conditions for germination and early regrowth.
  • In some areas, fallen trees will provide shelter for wildlife and replace burnt habitat logs.
  • Fallen trees should not be pushed up into bush areas or around standing trees because this will increase the risk of damage from future fires.

Develop a long-term plan to manage bush and revegetation patches

  • Seek advice from organisations and consultants to plan new firebreaks, fencing and rehabilitation.

Revegetation

  • Assess the extent of total loss in the spring–summer following the fire; replanting may be necessary where large areas have been destroyed.
  • Regeneration of revegetation plantings largely depends on the age of the planting and species. Where immature plants have been killed by fire, replanting is usually necessary.

Assistance

  • Landholders can contact their regional NRM organisation, relevant government agencies, or relevant non-government organisations, such as Greening Australia.

Contact information

David Bicknell
+61 (0)8 9881 0228