Fire-ravaged bush healing

Fire-ravaged bush healing

18 October 2010

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Australia —  AT STEAVENSON Falls near Marysville the water gushes down the many tiers with mighty force.

The steep, thickly treed hillside from which the falls descend was virtually cleared in the Black Saturday bushfires last year, but is now regenerating and the falls are carrying large volumes of water. The fire exposed some tiers of the waterfall for probably the first time in a generation.

At nearby Murrindindi Scenic Reserve – not far from the origin of the Murrindindi fire on Black Saturday – ancient tree ferns believed to be up to 200 years old sway gracefully above the lower under-storey species, their blackened trunks capped by a canopy of bright green fronds.
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The ferns – some of them more than two metres tall – were among the first species to recover from Black Saturday, their healthy appearance proof they are here to stay.

To the east, in the Cathedral Range State Park, a small native animal the size of a mouse has been seen for the first time. Steve Smith, natural values fire recovery co-ordinator for the Department of Sustainability and Environment, says the small marsupial caught on infra-red camera was either a white-footed dunnart or common dunnart. The former is a nationally threatened species, while the latter is ”not particularly common”, he says.

The marsupial’s discovery in a new area is an exciting thing for animal lovers and those with an interest in the recovery of the bush after the fires. ”It’s an extension of range and something that local people will be excited to know is in their area and survived the fire,” Mr Smith says.

Good rainfall in autumn, winter and spring has meant the recovery of the burnt forests is surging. Crystal clear streams are flowing, wildflowers are booming, waterfalls are gushing and branches and plants are spreading upward and outward. A clearer forest canopy has allowed more light in, while sunny spring days have encouraged more growth.

The regenerating forest is likely to lure more visitors and eager bushwalkers and photographers in to witness the changing landscape. But Mr Smith urges such enthusiasts to stick to open, signed walking tracks and to take safety seriously.

”With photography there are all these wonderful opportunities that are not normally there, particularly for all of those close-up macro shots. There’s some things to photograph that are unique to this post-fire recovery period,” he says.

One man who has taken thousands of photos of the burnt bush is professional photographer Christian Pearson, who spent almost two weeks in the bush taking pictures for the DSE. He has seen incredible beauty in the forest’s recovery including sunsets featuring the ”richest oranges I’ve ever seen and the most luminous greens I’ve ever seen, perfectly complemented by the strongest blacks you could pretty much ever get”.

For Mr Pearson, who has visited many burnt locations including Marysville, Mount Disappointment and Bunyip State Park, the regeneration of Marysville’s Steavenson Falls is a standout. The falls are open to the public on weekends.

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