Set between the harsh, arid desert uplands and escarpment of the Aramac Range and the fertile black soil plains to the south, Edgbaston Reserve is a truly unique and diverse area. Last week Bush Heritage staff began its program of fire management activities on Edgbaston for the first time since purchase of this property.
This work included fire planning between reserve staff and ecologists and consultations with neighbours and stakeholders including Traditional Owner representatives. This planning informed our Fire Management Plans, which have identified bushfires as a threat to the Key Conservation Targets including
- the artesian spring sites with critically endangered fish and endemic vegetation,
- old unburnt spinifex patches critical for small mammal and reptiles
- fire sensitive riparian and ephemeral wetland areas.
Planned burns were undertaken in small strategic areas to reduce the risk of bushfire impacting Key Conservation Targets and to support the overall ecological health of the property over time.
Small fires were lit late in the afternoon so they could be small and controlled and self-extinguishing once the cool night air set in. It was pretty chilly at night getting down to 0 to 2 degrees, which put the fires out without much follow up work required but also tested out the quality and thickness of peoples' sleeping bags. My two sleeping bags miserably failed the test but some colleagues took pity on me with extra blankets.
Planned burning on Edgbaston included implementing an experimental burn on a black soil Mitchell grass area to prevent the senescence (reaching age where it can no longer reproduce) of this tussock grass and reducing the risk of bushfire along the southern boundary.
This experimental burn will be closely monitored by ecologists over the coming years to further inform and improve the fire management program in the future.
It's also unique because most of the Mitchell and Flinders grass areas on black soil right across Northern Australia are in tightly held pastoral leases and not protected within the National Reserve System.
Monitoring and protecting the ecological health of these areas will provide valuable lessons for the wider region.
Bush Heritage also used the opportunity to provide training to 14 of our North Region staff in nationally accredited fire crew member and crew leader training. This training will serve us really well for the next bushfire season and enable us to have extra staff on hand when bushfires break out later in the year.
While the bushfire risk is looking much lower for the south east of the continent compared to the last Black Summer, parts of northern Australia including some of our larger reserves in Queensland, such as Edgbaston, are expected to face a significant bushfire risk by September until the summer to autumn rains roll in.
At another site, known as Prickle Spring, planned burning was undertaken to help control of Prickly Acacia and Buffel Grass, which had heavily infested the spring area.
Reserve staff and ecologists had previously prepared the area by controlling the mature Prickly Acacia thickets with careful selective herbicide and manual removal in around the spring site. The planned burn at Prickle Spring successfully cleared much of the area of Buffel grass and Prickly Acacia regrowth while allowing a low intensity burn slowly backing in to the wind which protected the mature River Red Gums and spring vegetation.
Now that we're getting rid of the prickles out of 'Prickle Spring' we can probably think of a better name for this special place where the artesian springs bubble up from the base of the Aramac range.
Maybe the Traditional Owners can help us rename it now it's been released from its thorny manacles and its unique endemic plant and animal life can recover and flourish again.