Leader: Dr Mary Ellis; Facilitator: Julie Parker
Seventeen participants gathered in overcast, cold and windy conditions with rain threats fortunately amounting to only a few drops from time to time.
Monitoring after fires. Mary explained the monitoring/ survey program that she, along with approximately 24 volunteers and Parks Victoria staff, have been conducting since the fires, on a monthly basis. We stopped at the pump house behind the Tidal River village where the 2005 fire started. That was a “controlled” burn that got away, burning for three weeks.
A Canadian ranger, on exchange, set up the survey plots, with 110 permanent quadrats each of 1 square metre area. All growth is recorded and photos taken; GPS grid references are also noted. There are permanent markers over which a polypipe frame is placed and all growth recorded, along with information such as plant height and method of propagation (if known). Any mosses, lichen and fungi are also noted. Staff at the Arthur Rylah Institute are now analyzing data collected to date to help guide future park management.
There are control plots (not burnt), plots that were severely burnt, some from mosaic burns and some from low intensity burn sites.
We wandered along a track through Coast Tea-tree, Leptospermum laevigatum. There was an area where these plants were old – perhaps 25 years – and shading everything, hence very little undergrowth. Mary thought that such areas need a fire regime of 25 years to promote succession.
In another area which had been burnt, there was a mass of L. laevigatum regeneration at a density of around 400 plants per square metre – each plant can produce something like 2500 seeds! We had some discussion as to why such density is occurring – the Coast Banksia, B. integrifolia, has not regenerated after the fire as would be expected, having been affected at this site by dieback. Therefore no shade or competition for the tea-tree. It should be noted, though, that at other sites in the park the banksia is recovering well.
Another Ecological Vegetation Class. Further on we entered another EVC – damp gully with greater diversity and increased growth height – Brown Stringybark, Eucalyptus baxteri, and Swamp Paperbark, Melaleuca ericifolia, were dominant.
Other plants noted en route:
Very little in the way of birds was seen or heard, apart from the odd Wattle Bird, White-browed Scrub-wren and Grey Fantail.
Latrobe Valley FNC.