Ravaged KI bush springs to life

  Ravaged KI bush springs to life

4 May 2008

published by www.news.com.au     

Australia — New life is sprouting from the charred remains of Kangaroo Island, six months after bushfires engulfed the landscape.

The December bushfires destroyed 85,000 hectares, including 72,000ha of protected bushland.

Green growth is replacing the black tinge across Flinders Chase National Park, where the fire destroyed 19,000ha.

On the ground, bracken fern has quickly created ground cover in many spots, while tiny acacia plants recently slowly began to sprout from the ashed earth.

New leaves and branches cluster at the bottom of burned Mallee trees while trunks of eucalypts are covered in new leaves.

One large tree stump in the park – a tall, hollow trunk – is producing new growth from beneath its charred bark.

Kangaroo Island West senior ranger Mike Penhall said new branches and leaves stemmed from the surviving parts of the tree, which painted a stunning picture for park visitors and rangers.

He said sugar gums would produce branches all over the tree, but the limbs of Mallee plants were dead and the regrowth occurred from the base.

In coming months, rangers and ecologists would be able to find new species not seen in the park for decades, he said.

“At first glance, it looked fairly devastating but within two weeks, we had decent rain and the regeneration started,” he said.

“People get the impression that (the fire) was quite negative but it’s what the Australian bush is all about.”

Banksias opened in the heat of the blaze and dropped their seed, which will emerge in coming months after winter rainfall.

“It doesn’t look like there’s much to it and when it first happened, you would think the tree is gone, but it’ll still live on and produce fruit and seed because it is still a viable entity,” Mr Penhall said.

“With a fire, things will come up that haven’t been here in decades and we haven’t had a fire here for 20 years.

“It is too early to tell what will grow here.”

Only one bird flits between the trees in the burned section of the park but echidnas and goannas have also been spotted occasionally in the past few months.

Rare bandicoots, dunnarts and glossy black cockatoos have also been found to have survived.

As the habitat grows, more plants will provide cover for animals and more birds, kangaroos and koalas will return to the burned areas of the park.

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