2019 Fire in Nightcap National Park – A summary of Dr Robert M Kooyman’s talk at Wilsons Creek Hall, 23 January 2020
See below for videos of Dr Kooyman’s talk
Rainforests contain 40 million years of evolutionary history with a range of plant and animal lineages and communities with origins in Gondwana. The ancient supercontinent Gondwana broke up approximately 180 million years ago and as Australia drifted away from Antarctica, rainforests contracted to its east coast and far north. Only 1 percent of the original 40 million year old Gondwanan rainforest survives in Australia. Read more.
Australia has the most diversity of remaining plant and animal lineages with Gondwanan histories. The Gondwana Rainforests of Australia are world heritage listed in recognition of their unique landforms, species diversity and role in demonstrating the development of life on earth. Read more.
In particular, the Nightcap National Park (NP) area contains many plant and animal lineages with Gondwanan histories, including many threatened species.
The scale of the November 2019 fire event in the Nightcap NP was unprecedented and catastrophic. Historical logging activities in the Nightcap area up until 40 years ago resulted in the loss of 90 percent of old growth trees. Of the remaining 10 percent, the bushfires have caused the loss of a further 10 to 30 percent of old growth trees.
Historical logging activities increased forest vulnerability to fire as flammable eucalyptus components were accentuated at the cost of fire resistant rainforest species. On eucalypt ridges smaller re‑growth trees, such as blackbutt or Eucalyptus pilularis, growing close together with crowns touching enhanced the spread of canopy fire. Shrubs growing on the forest floor due to increased light penetrating the canopy were dried out by drought and promoted fire through the understory. Logging debris pushed into the rainforest and increased fire heat and penetration into rainforest.
Recovery of the Nightcap area ecosystem is likely to take hundreds of years. A total of 16 plant and 27 animal threatened species were affected by the fire. Tragically, approximately 25 to 30 percent of the critically endangered Nightcap Oak species was lost to fire. The endangered peach myrtle species were also affected. Brushbox and palm forest species were burnt at Terania Creek.
There are signs of recovery in the eucalyptus forests as these species are fire adapted. The eucalyptus ridgelines are re-sprouting and acacias have re-seeded. However rainforest species are not fire adapted and it is likely that some will continue to die due to the stress of the fire event. Lowland rainforest was less affected by the fire than upland rainforest. The Mt Nardi rainforest was sprayed with fire retardant and is likely to recover as there are signs of re‑growth.
Fire resistance of the forest would have been enhanced if more rainforest had been preserved by the Forestry Commission given that rainforest species resist fire. Future planning policy should incorporate planting fire resistant rainforest species near houses/communities as a barrier to fire.
See below videos of Dr Kooyman’s talk including an earlier video of Dr Kooyman discussing Gondwanan rainforest.
Rob Kooyman (forest ecologist extraordinaire) takes us through what we've lost and what we can learn from the recent bushfires that ravaged Australia's forest whose evolutionary history goes back more than 100million years when Gondwanaland (mainland Australia) was still attached to Patagonia (current day Chile and Argentina) and the Antartica. Today's 8min clip relates to northern NSW where Rob lives and has done much of his field work from his earliest days as a forest ecologist 40 years ago (though not exclusively – Rob's in demand all over the world for forest regen and advise on how Govts from Madagascar to Kalimantan can best manage their forests). We'll be posting several more clips over next few days of Rob's talk at Wilsons Creek this week. So those who didn't make it or don't live in the area can learn from what Rob has to offer.
Posted by Frontline Films on Saturday, 25 January 2020
'Doctor Rob' continues his talk from last Thursday night at Wilsons Creek Hall about the state of health in the forests of northern NSW and Australia generally post the Bushfires. Please share with your friends and those True Believers who know this has come about in part because of Government (both major parties…) inepitude in not tackling Climate Emergency as the real War of Terror bearing down on us all.
Posted by Frontline Films on Monday, 27 January 2020
I have nothing but the highest respect for Dailan Pugh's forest activism (which he was honoured with an OAM from Queenie Liz some years ago…) and long time koala lover (a key indicator species of forest health … just one of many animals and birds Dailan has fought for in the forests for over 40 years). Dailan has just written a note alerting us to the latest scam by loggers and the timber industry's greedy operators (eg Boral) who only view the forest as a resource to harvest and make money from. They are now using the pretext of 'salvaging' millions of tonnes of timber slightly burnt or badly burnt in the recent fires in Victoria and NSW to get into their with their industrial juggernaut machines that allow them in one coup alone to cut and truck upto 600 logs a day. We have to STOP this lunacy from happening, particularly after the fires. Otherwise we, our kids and grandkids are cactus because we ALL rely on healthy forests (which they hardly are any more…) for clean water, air and biodiversity. You all know the Rub and truth to that. As Rob Kooyman continues to outline in the video below. Dailan writes: "The tip is that there is going to be a press release (soon) …announcing an intent to introduce legislation to allow salvage and 'hazard reduction' logging in national parks. If correct, I imagine this is only part of a suite of measures that will herald an all-out assault on our national parks. The National Party's cherished aim of opening up National Parks to logging and grazing seems to have borne fruit in the midst of this environmental catastrophe. If correct, its important that as many people as possible make an immediate outcry.Dailan.
Posted by Frontline Films on Tuesday, 28 January 2020
Finally…Hopefully this clip holds Sync and Sound. In this clip, Rob Kooyman asks if we should start planting more rainforest deliberately, strategically as a buffer to future fires? Given his observations of what took place in the rainforests of the Nightcap Range and elsewhere on the east cost. “We saw in these last fires on the Nightcap how rainforest resists fire. The rainforest in one spot actually stopped the fire. If Forestry hadn’t increased the area of eucalypt forest, we’d have had a different outcome,” says Rob. The opposing idea put by our Prime Minister and others is we might consider clearing more, burning more, logging more…and using that as part of our carbon accounting..!
Posted by Frontline Films on Sunday, 2 February 2020
I recorded this interview with Rob Kooyman a year ago. Twelve months before the greatest disaster that has hit our forests in the recent bushfires. In the aftermath of 'the Bushfire we had to have', Rob's outlining how unique and how old and how our forests came about is timely. Where to from here? Do we just slash and burn, cull still more to avert more bushfires as some demand? Or do we selectively burn and nurture the rest of what remains?To think our forest's evolutionary history goes back over 100million years ago evolving into what is on the mainland Australia today – both rainforest and eucalpyt forests, coast to coast. One hundred million years ago Australia's forests began evolving after breaking away from Patagonia and Anartica. Its a savage indictment, pre-bushfires how out of sheer bastardry to conquor the land, put in agriculture and the desire to make a quick quid, an easy dollar, we have allowed our forests to be so ruined to the charred mess they now are. Instead of a blazing green emerald gem that would have stood out in space on Google Earth for all the world to see how wise and smart we were from 232 years ago in first invading this country, to look after what was so unique we have here.
Posted by Frontline Films on Sunday, 26 January 2020