Bushfire aftermath: ‘The rainforest left needs protecting’
ONE LOCAL conservation group is calling for the NSW Government to take preventive measures to protect what local rainforest is left following last year's fire season.
With more than a third of NSW's northeast rainforests burnt last year, North East Forest Alliance is calling for the immediate protection of 50m buffers around rainforest and an urgent weed control program in and adjacent to burnt stands.
NEFA spokesman Dailan Pugh said the NSW Government's mapping of fire extent and canopy scorch shows that 160,000 hectares (35 per cent) of northeast NSW's 462,000 ha of rainforests were burnt last fire season.
"It is tragic that over a third of these priceless relicts burnt in one year. Across the fire-grounds most leaf litter, logs and under storey plants were burnt, along with their inhabitants. With many tree bases damaged, Mr Pugh said the most worrying aspect was the significant loss of large canopy trees, hundreds of years old, across 125,000 ha of rainforests.
"Some 34,000 ha of these lost most of its canopy trees," he said.
"Some stands are unlikely to ever recover.
"These rainforests are relicts from over 70 million years ago when Australia was clothed in rainforest as part of the supercontinent of Gondwana.
"The relatively small remnants left are packed with survivors from the ancient forests."
He said the forests left needed to be treated with "care and respect" if they were to survive.
"With climate heating increasing droughts, temperatures, heatwaves and extreme fire weather, many of our relictual rainforests are under a looming threat to their continued existence," he said.
"If we want them (rainforests), rainforest buffers are essential to maintain moist rainforest micro climates and reduce fire threat."
He reiterated that if NSW rainforests are to survive, the NSW Government needed to protect their buffers.
"As a minimum, 50m buffers (one tree height) should be applied around all mapped rainforest stands from which logging and clearing are excluded. Weeds and debris from past logging needs to be removed from these buffers,' he said.
"The intensity of the fires has killed lantana over large areas, creating an opportunity to control it before it takes over again. This opportunity must be capitalised on if we want to increase the resilience of rainforests."
A NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service spokeswoman said NSW scientists were working to better understand the full impacts of the bushfire on the rainforest to better understand fire tolerance, impacts, changes in habitat condition and extent.
"Work is already underway to develop improved future fire strategies, translocation, weed control and off-site conservation," she said.
"The NSW Government also continues to work on propagation and seed collection as an 'insurance' process for a number of key rainforest species."
For more information see Recovering from the 2019-20 fires webpage and Wildlife Conservation Bushfire Recovery: Immediate Response January 2020 report.