I can hardly bring myself to write this post. Contemplating all those lives – plants, animals and others – perishing in the intense fires is painful. But Nature did this and Nature will float, crawl, bounce and grow back in some form over time, even if the present ecosystem (especially that of pencil pines in the Central Plateau) does not come back.
Tasmania had an exceptionally dry and warm few months over spring and summer 2015/2016. Dry lightning strikes (where there is little accompanying rain) ignited more than 70 fires in the World Heritage Area and other wilderness areas.
We were privileged to be allowed into the ‘no go zone’, the road to Corinna, by prior arrangement via our palaeobotanists, Associate Professor Greg Jordan and Associate Professor Mike Macphail (who was a colleague of mine at the South Australian Museum).
Some grass species, whose growing points were below ground level and so survived the fire, were regrowing after the recent rains.
The metal edge markers along this section had all melted.
Even worse further along, in the very intense fire …
Greg explained that trees respond to fires in several ways (knowledgeable botanists, please correct me if I’ve misunderstood him):
- they survive; or
- roasted (in very hot fires), they die, dropping their seeds, which germinate with exposure to smoke; or
- toasted (in cooler fires), they survive and re-shoot from the growing points under the surface of their trunks. These trees tend to have deep roots, too.
Interestingly, “fire surviving” trees tend to have “fire promoting” characteristics.
The level of ground (really ash) in the forest had dropped a metre or more. Greg said this was because the intensity of the fire had destroyed all the organic matter in the soil down to a certain level, and subsequent rain had caused the ash to compress and the “ground” level to drop.
The slime mould pictured below is doing well. It may be Fuligo septica, which I just have to mention because I love its common names; according to Sarah Lloyd’s Where the Slime Mould Creeps, they are dog’s vomit slime mould, kwei hi (Chinese, “demon droppings”) and caca de luna (Mexican, “moon shit”).