Fire, ferns and forestry: The recovery of Victoria’s Mountain Ash forest after disturbance

Victoria’s Mountain Ash forests are subject to periodic, intense wildfires and logging. Following such disturbances, recovery is rapid and spectacular, but recovery trajectories can vary due to the disturbance type and the state of the forest at the time of disturbance.

My studies looked at a number of elements of the recovery process. Firstly, I compared regeneration after fire with recovery after logging. My second study examined tree fern growth after fire, with unexpected findings that ferns grew more the taller they were at the time of the fire. My third study tested plant succession theories with differences in species richness in forest of four different age classes. My final research study will reveal differences in forest recovery when the forest being burned differs in age at the time of the fire.

About the speaker

Dave Blair completed a forest science degree at Melbourne University before wasting much of his youth climbing rocks, ski touring, mountaineering, hiking and cycling around Victoria, Tasmania, NZ and Canada. He spent 8 months living on a primary rainforest research site in West Kalimantan following his wife, who was following orang-utans. His photo journalism career photographing and writing about environmental issues lasted a few years and took him around Australia and Indonesia covering sea turtles, whales, the Coorong, Javan Hawk-eagles and Leadbeater’s Possum. With a young family on the way, globetrotting adventure gave way to environmental consultancy, doing native vegetation and bushfire management assessments for local government and private individuals. Since the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, Dave has worked with David Lindenmayer’s ecology team, based in the Victorian Central Highlands, studying the Mountain Ash ecosystem. In his local community, Dave has been a scout leader for eight years, kicks the round ball occasionally and still finds a bit of time to climb on rocks and ride his bike.