and the verdict? Guilty as charged.
We will have to start this post with a wee disclaimer. We are not botanists. We just observe and wonder. Sometimes we make theory's and think we know more than most. But for now, carry on reading because we think this is interesting.
We have spent the last week walking through an area of forest that has been burnt. Some of it was burnt as a 'prescribed burn' some by lighting strike and some by arsonists. The result is always the same.
Now, where I come from, fire is a pretty bad thing to have in the forest, or really anywhere actually. The great cleanser. It destroys all in its path leaving only ash and memories. Over here in Oz it was seen as a pretty bad thing also and for many years forest fires were fought by brave men and women, often in vain. Fire towers were set up on high points and some at the top of very tall trees to spot fires and attempt to put them out before they spread to far. Bush fire fighting was an industry and a career choice for many Aussie country folk.
Well, sort of makes you think what happened to the poor Aussie bush before these brave folk eh.
During the 1970s wild fires ripped through the redwood forests of California. Many firefighters lost their lives fighting them and Ronald Regain said enough! Let them burn. Not a decision he made, he was given sound advice that this was in fact part of the natural cycle of this forest and without fires the area would not re seed and continue the cycle of life. This was a turning point in fighting fires in some of the forests around the world!
We don't know if this decision was what changed the forest service stance in Australia or not, but it was around this time that they stopped fighting fires here too. They do contain the fires, and put a lot of effort in protecting property and livestock, but mostly the fire will burn. The trees wouldn't have it any other way!
Australia really is a land of contrast. Beautiful one day, burning the next. We have really been amazed by what we have seen walking through the fire effected areas. The fires in February this year were very bad. An entire town was burned to the ground. Gone, the lot. Not one building left standing. It's hard to imagine that the surrounding forest wouldn't have met the same fate. Not so! Now a few months after, the ground is covered in sprouting plants, the trees although blackened are also sprouting new growth from base to crown and its green as far as you can see. It seams each plant and tree has a mechanism to protect, or renew from fire.
Some of the trees have thick bark, 10 to 15mm thick. After a fire this layer just falls off and it looks like nothing has happened except for a load of bark at the base of the tree. Others will let the fire do its thing and even with what looks like total loss, new branches will appear from the black shell. The undergrowth, often the source of the flames will grow very quickly in the fresh ash which is full of nutrients. These plants grow, produce seeds and then quickly die off leaving dry twiggy fuel for the next fire do the process can repeat itself. Many of the trees and plants produce nuts and seed pods that will not even open until they have felt the lick of flames.
One of our favorite plants is the Tree Grass (formally known as Black Boy but not a PC name now for some reason) This plant is so flammable we use the dead parts to start camp fires and it burns like it is soaked in petrol. This plant will burn so hot, it's sap will bubble out of the trunk. After the fire, it produces a seed spear that can grow up to 3 meters high!
It it is not all good of course. Given the right conditions (or wrong) the fire can kill the trees and undergrowth completely. Sadly this is more likely to happen in areas that have been logged as the flames can easily reach the canopy of the new growth. Other areas that have had repeated burns over a short period will suffer the same fate.
Still, the fact the bush has evolved to handle this sort of treatment is totally amazing to us and we are still in awe of it and the animals that live with it all around!
it's Our Epic Trip...
David & Christine are from New Zealand and are embarking on a trip around the world the slow way, on foot and by personal vehicle. This could get interesting!