Rare ‘dinosaur trees’ survive national park fire
CHARRED, but alive.
A sprinkler system put in place to protect the endangered Wollemi pine population against the Gospers Mountain fire has saved the "dinosaur trees" from destruction.
Discovered in late 1994 within Wollemi National Park, the so-called Jurassic Trees date back millions of years.
About 250 individuals are located in sandstone gorges in four small patches within a 4km square radius in the 501,000ha park.
The site has been kept secret since the discovery to ensure their protection, with not even firefighters made aware of their location.
Environment Minister Matt Kean on Wednesday confirmed the pines had been saved thanks to a raft of measures put in place to protect the trees.
A waterbombing helicopter also attacked the fire edge, although is understood to have been called away to protect a property.
Mr Kean said while some of the trees were charred, the species was expected to survive.
"Wollemi National Park is the only place in the world where these trees are found in the wild and, with less than 200 left, we knew we needed to do everything we could to save them," he said.
"The 2019 wildfire is the first ever opportunity to see the fire response of the mature Wollemi pine in a natural setting, which will help us refine the way we manage fire in these sites long-term."
It is understood the fire crossed the retardant in some parts, with sources within NSW National Parks and Wildlife Services claiming some of the individual trees to have been damaged.
However, the main population sheltered in a deep canyon was largely unaffected.
The Wollemi National Park Fire Management Plan warned "hot fires" posed a "catastrophic threat" to the pines.
"It is assumed that hot fires will kill individuals and that catastrophic fire is a threat to the known populations, however, there is evidence of the site being exposed to a fire event in the past," the plan stated.
"The loss of Wollemi pine individuals would meant the loss of the only population of that species living in the wild."
Back-up plantings of the pines conducted around the back were destroyed.
The slow-growing species is thought to have declined over millions of years, with the remnant population somehow surviving in the warm temperate rainforest environment provided in canyon within Wollemi National Park.