Bush and revegetation recovery after fire on farms in Western Australia

Page last updated: Tuesday, 7 November 2023 - 1:43pm

This page gives some ideas on how to reduce the risk of fires in bush and revegetation on farms, and how to speed recovery of burnt areas.

Large patches of bush in good condition will generally regenerate well after fire, with some management of weeds and grazing.

Revegetation areas are much more susceptible to fire, and recovery largely depends on the age of the revegetation and after-fire management.

The bush is burnt – will it recover?

Australian bush is used to fires, but not all burnt bush patches will recover to the same extent, and these are some of the reasons why:

  • Large healthy patches (with a full range of native plant species) have better seed reserves and environments for seed capture.
  • Small patches with little understory have fewer seed reserves and often lack species that are good at competing after a fire.
  • Grazing by livestock, native and feral grazers will kill germinating plants and possibly prevent any recovery.
  • Intense fire can kill and remove mature plants, destroy seed reserves and open the area to invasive weeds.
  • Low intensity fire can help release seed from damaged plants, provide smoke to increase germination of many species, and provide small ash beds with conditions suitable for germination.
  • Weeds from agriculture can outcompete many native plants, and will slow or prevent full recovery.

The revegetation patch is burnt – will it recover?

Revegetation areas are usually very susceptible to being killed by fires, and these are some of the reasons why:

  • There is often a thick layer of grass and other weeds that will carry a very hot fire.
  • Trees and shrubs have thin stems and relatively large amount of low foliage that is easily killed by fire.
  • Young revegetation plants have not produced any or much seed to naturally regenerate.
  • Young mallees may not have developed lignotubers for resprouting, and stems are not capable of forming epicormic shoots.

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You can manage burnt bush to improve recovery

The most important things to do are:

Prevent grazing of recovering plants

  • Fence to exclude livestock.
  • Control vermin: rabbits can destroy considerable amounts of fresh growth and controlling rabbits is easier while groundcover is removed, the warrens are exposed and accessible, and rabbit numbers are lower.
  • Control rabbits outside the affected area.
  • Control native grazers where possible: kangaroos and wallabies can cause considerable damage to fresh growth.

Leave trash and ash beds to provide niches for natural regeneration

  • Only remove burnt material that is a health and safety hazard, such as dead trees that could fall and threaten people’s safety, buildings or fencelines.
  • Burnt trash and undisturbed ash beds provide some protection from wind and water erosion following fires, and provide better conditions for germination and early regrowth. Recovery might be improved by adding locally sourced seed of post-fire species – contact Parks and Wildlife for advice.
  • Some fallen trees will provide shelter for wildlife and replace burnt habitat logs.
  • Fallen trees should not be pushed up into bush areas or around standing trees because this will increase the risk of damage from future fires.

Prevent weed invasion

  • Control weeds outside the protected burnt area.
  • Plant a dense low hedge of native species on the inside of the fence, with a spcae for a firebreak between the fence and the hedge. This acts as a seed trap.
  • Spot-control weeds where they are thick in the burnt area.

How to manage burnt revegetation areas

Be prepared to replant or reseed burnt young revegetation areas.

  • Where large sections have been killed, treat the area as a new revegetation site: weed control, pest control, soil preparation, seedling planting.
  • Where there have been small patches killed, it may be better to leave them to fill in naturaly in the longer term. Competition from adjacent surviving plants will lower the survival of most seedlings.

Manage now for future fires in farm bush and revegetation

A lot of the risk from fire (likelihood and impact) can be reduced by simple methods:

  • Fence those areas and establish a firebreak on the inside of the fence.
  • In bush, start a controlled patch-burning program to reduce the mass and continuity of flammable material. Seek advice from the Department of Parks and Wildlife or relevant conservation organisations.
  • Do not have stubble burns or paddock fires close to bush or revegetation areas.
  • Have a whole-farm fire management and fire fighting plan ready to go.

For more information and assistance