Threatened plant population booms following burn
It's always exciting for Fire Management ecologists and staff when we see the positive impact that fire can have on native plant species. It means that all the environmental asessments, monitoring, careful planning and weed control that goes into every prescribed burn on the program is really making a difference. It also proves that when well considered, fire can be used as a tool to improve the health of our native ecosystems.
This was the case with a population of Veronica Derwentiana subsp. homalodonta (Mount Lofty Speedwell), an EPBC listed critically engangered shrub. Environmental assessments in Scott Creek Conservation Park revealed a small population of around 30 plants to be present before the burn was undertaken. No new seedlings had been recorded at the site since the beginning of the monitoring activities. The burn was undertaken in spring 2016 and follow up counts have revealed the presence of 232 new seedlings in the site in the following months! This represents more than a 700% increase in the population of this rare, endemic species to the site as a result of these activities.
You can see the Mount Lofty Speedwell in the photo above. It is a lush, medium shrub, that could be mistaken for a weed due to its bright, lime green colour. It produces beautiful white flowers in spring, and can live for up to 25 years!
This is just one of numerous other native species that can be stimulated with the use of fire in the landscape. Many endangered orchids are also recorded following fire, which gives them the oportunity to emerge. The important thing with these results is what the team do next, which is the follow up with more monitoring and weed control to ensure that weeds don't take over and outcompete the natives once more.