The role of fire in sclerophyll eucalypt forests – talk by Dr Kevin Tolhurst.

We need to learn to live with fire because we are never be able to control it.
Prehistorically, Australia’s climate changed from non-seasonal and humid to Mediterranean as the continent moved northwards. Analysis of soil samples for charcoal content show that the frequency of fire increased greatly about 40,000 years ago. The vegetation became more flammable and the fire tolerant plants became more common. It is probable that the aborigines played some part in this process.


Today, 26 million ha/year is burnt north of the Tropic of Capricorn and 3 million ha/year south of the tropic.


Fire is only one of the distubances which can shift the balance of competition in favour of some species. Fire releases nutrients and gives opportunities for revegetation. Fire stimulates germination by cracking seed coats and the influence of chemicals in smoke. Different fire frequencies and intensities will affect the vegetation composition.


Slides showing the progression of vegetation changes over different periods of time were shown.


Kevin thoroughly answered the enthusiastic questioning. Many stayed to watch a documentary about the 1939 fires and their aftermath.


Long-leaf Box with sucker shoots after fire. Jerusalem Creek, Eildon.