Car-rang-gel | North Head

Car-rang-gel | North Head

Fire in the Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub on Car-rand-gel | North Head

The Black Summer Bushfires in NSW caused significant loss of wildlife and burnt over 5.4 million hectares of habitat. within Sydney’s iconic North Head scrubland. However, this fire had devastating consequences.

Common Brush-tailed Possum – Trichosurus vulpecula -nocturnal, semi-arboreal marsupial of Australia.

Although this controlled burn by NSW National Parks was planned to reduce the risk of habitat loss from an unplanned fire, it achieved the exact opposite. It is estimated that more than 62 hectares of the endangered Eastern Suburb Banksia Scrub was destroyed when the fire jumped containment lines. Prior to this fire, the Australian Wildlife Conservancy had only just released numerous native Bush Rats, Brown Antechinus and Eastern Pygmy Possums in an effort to increase the animal populations that would have improved the biodiversity within this fragile ecosystem. Sadly, the Australian Wildlife Conservancy reported a large decline in the populations of these native animals after the fire.

Fires are an important part of rejuvenating many Australian habitats. Fires assist with transferring energy across and through different ecosystems and many of the native flora found in the Eastern Suburb Banksia Scrub rely on slow and cool burns to regenerate. Plants such as the genus Banksia are reliant on cool burns to open the follicles to then release the seeds after a fire has passed by. The B. serrata, B. ericifolia and the B. integrifolia are excellent examples of plants within this sensitive ecosystem that rely on fires to do exactly this. But the North Head fire was extremely hot and it has caused many Banksia seed pods to remain closed and we may have lost them for good.

 Banksia serrata Banksia ericifoliaBanksia integrifolia

There is a bright side to this fire though. The Orange Bracket Fungi (Pycnoporus coccineus) and other decomposers like it are flourishing and busy breaking down organic matter like this Banksia branch. Also, the Kangaroo Apple (Solanum aviculare) seedlings have laid dormant beneath the thick layers of scrub and were last seen here in 2018. But recently, due to the burning of the scrub the Kangaroo Apple has rejuvenated and can be easily spotted again. Similarly, the Native Sundew (Drosera binata) hasn’t been spotted for a number of years and since the recent fire, this precious little flower is now growing out of the ashes throughout the scrubland of North Head.

Orange Bracket FungiKangaroo AppleNative Sundew

Remember though, seedlings are very small and can be easily walked on. So, avoid walking in these areas while they are regenerating and if you must go, use designated footpaths and an accredited tour guide.

About Author

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Alan Toner
Founder of Sydney Harbour EcoWalks Tours.

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