Recovery in Yarloop after intense summer bushfires

We have been working on ecological restoration with the local Peel Harvey community in the southwest of Western Australia for over ten years. The region forms part of the Peel Biolink programme, a landscape-scale initiative to connect the Darling Scarp to the shores of the Peel Estuary and its Ramsar-listed wetlands.

The Alcoa Landcare Education Centre – one of many properties lost in bush fires in and around Yarloop in January 2016. Photo: Blair Parsons

Young revegetation (Melaleuca rhaphiophylla) impacted by bushfires. Photo: Blair Parsons

Many were impacted by the fires including Nell’s Block, a unique property where local people came together to restore 16.5 ha of cleared farmland in memory of Nell Piggott, a passionate local naturalist.  Since 2008, community planting days have involved over 1,600 school children from the Peel region plus volunteers from organisations including Men of the Trees and Harvey River Restoration Task Force.  Critical to the success of these and other community planting programmes has been the ongoing support provided to us through a 34 year partnership with Alcoa of Australia.

Late in January, Blair Parsons, our Director of Conservation in Western Australia and Bayden Smith, our Peel Project Coordinator, visited the region to assess the impacts of the fire on the landscape and to inspect the remains of the Alcoa Landcare Education Centre.

The region’s vegetation, habitat and fauna had suffered significantly as a result of the fires. Areas of young vegetation were largely wiped out as they had not yet been able to set seed.” said Blair.

The extremely hot fires also burnt mature trees, fallen logs and virtually all understory from existing bushland, destroying key habitat for animals living in these important, remnant patches.”

“Just as the community will take years to recover from the loss of lives and property, the flora and fauna will also take years to recover.”

The remains of a tree guard within a young revegetation planting. Photo: Blair Parsons

Despite the overwhelming impact to vegetation and habitat within the region, there were some glimpses of recovery as soon as three weeks after the fires. The amazing resilience of our unique native plants and their adaptation to fire was evident with new shoots and healthy growth on display.

Recovery of Macrozamia riedlei, only weeks after the fires. Photo: Blair Parsons

New growth of Eucalyptus species was pronounced within most revegetation areas. Photo: Blair Parsons

Vigorous new growth of Xanthorrhoea pressii (Grass Tree). Photo: Blair Parsons

“While our recent plantings will be too young to recover from such an intense fire, it is an opportunity for us to monitor and evaluate the response of our revegetation to fire.” said Bayden.

This information can assist us in managing processes like weed infestation which, if left unaddressed, can often prevent effective recovery of our beautiful bushland post-fire.”

Xylomelum occidentale (Woody Pear), soon to set seed after the fires. Photo: Blair Parsons

We are working to support the community in this region through landscape-scale restoration to assist recovery and enhance future resilience.

If you require further information or wish to assist in this landscape, please contact us.

A particularly upset Banksia, clearly not a fan of the fires. Photo: Blair Parsons