REGROWTH: Green shoots start to grow on a burnt eucalyptus tree.
REGROWTH: Green shoots start to grow on a burnt eucalyptus tree.

Fire-damaged and dead trees good for wildlife after fire

JUST as residents of Nymboida who lost their homes in recent bushfire look to rebuild, recovering wildlife are also looking to establish habitats in what's left of devastated bushland.

Australian National University researcher Professor David Lindenmayer from the Fenner School of Environment and Society said rather than an untidy mess, fire-damaged trees and half burnt logs left behind by a fire are valuable habitat for recovering wildlife.

"Fires burn patchily, and small unburnt patches, half burnt logs and dead or fire-damaged trees are commonly left behind," Prof Lindenmayer said.

"Our research has demonstrated that these patches and remaining woody debris are very important to recovering wildlife populations.

"Wanting to do something constructive, people and organisations may sometimes feel an urge to clean these up, but resisting this urge can be one of the best things people can do for wildlife.

"We have found that when burnt areas contain small unburnt patches - even as small as a single surviving tree - it helps an area recover much faster.

"The unburnt patches and surrounding unburnt areas are an important source of animals to repopulate burnt areas and they also offer essential food and shelter until burnt areas recover."

Volunteers are now working with WIRES and other wildlife care groups to try to source hollow logs to put back much needed habitat for wildlife in Nymboida.

"It is important to protect any of these remaining patches by not clearing them, and ideally to manage pest animals and weeds," Prof Lindenmayer said.

"In some cases fires are so hot that they burn even the seeds in the soil, and then unburnt patches become essential sources of seed for native vegetation to re-establish.

"Standing fire-damaged trees as well as dead trees and fallen logs also provide many resources to surviving and recovering wildlife such as food, shelter and breeding hollows.

"Many trees that look dead will still be alive. In the months ahead, buds will sprout from under the blackened bark.

"At a time when habitat is so scarce, practices like burning or mulching remaining timber, salvage logging and mop-up burning rob landscapes of the features that wildlife will need to recover."