Ecological burning to recover threatened plants at Avenue in South Australia

Prescribed burning is a well documented and necessary management tool for improving the viability of a number of our threatened plant populations, especially those with germination cues that are triggered by this form of natural disturbance. In a previous ‘species of the month’ post we highlighted the research and on-ground action NGT are undertaking to help the long term survival of the Avenue Cassinia (Cassinia tegulata) population – more than 90% of which occurs in SA (in the Upper South East), with less than 1,200 plants remaining in the wild.

Burn of Cassinia tegulata underway at Avenue. Photo: Lu-Wei Spinks.

So, what are we doing about it? Well, in November 2018 the planning commenced for burns at the Blackford and Avenue populations; one planned for Spring 2019 the other in Autumn 2020. The first ‘cab off the rank’ was the Avenue site in Spring 2019.

The last 6 months have involved talking with numerous stakeholders including the landholder (SEWCDB), the local Avenue Range CFS brigade and Region 5 Headquarters, neighbouring land owners, Department of Transport (roadside significant site), Naracoorte-Lucindale Council, Aboriginal Heritage branch & Burrandies Aboriginal Corporation, Native Vegetation Council, Department for Environment and Water – Prescribed Burn section, and local Natural Resources South East staff.

Quite a list! – and lots of hurdles including EPBC Act considerations, ecological burn plan preparation and endorsement, operational plan preparation and endorsement, and then the final step in the approval of all aspects by the Native Vegetation Council.

The planning process has been lengthy to say the least, however we managed to reach our initial destination of achieving a spring burn at Avenue. Lu-Wei and I headed to Avenue (arriving late in the afternoon), meeting and greeting the volunteers from the Avenue Range CFS brigade, filling up fire units with water, talking over the burn logistics, and then heading to the burn site.

The go-ahead from Adelaide Fire was granted at 5:27 pm. The test burn went fine, then the burn continued and was completed as expected. The intent was to achieve a mosaic with some intense sections and other where no burning was likely due to sparse and green fuel. We could ‘t have done it without the help of Nick Edwards and the fantastic crew from the Avenue Range CFS – Grant, Meredith, Joe and Greg. We are thankful to them all. If you’d like to see the ‘before and after’ – watch the short video below …

Our next steps are to keep an eye on the site with periodic visits to photograph, measure and protect germinating plants, with the hope that some summer rain might encourage germination… we will wait with fingers crossed.

Nature Glenelg Trust thanks OneFortyOne for supporting threatened species conservation in the region.

Bryan Haywood