Sunday, July 20, 2008


Vegetation a little off.

Elizabeth's comment on my last post, though intended as a comparison for Canadian snow scenery, is right on the money. The vegetation was indeed a little off. As we rolled into Perisher, Marc and I were taken aback. Stark, stark skeletons of trees. Where were all the leaves? What was going on with the usually beautiful snow gums?

We figured that it must have been the bushfires, but were confused. They were five years back weren't they? You usually see much more growth of eucalypts after fires, up all the trunks of the burnt gum trees, and in 5 years, things are looking pretty green again. I talked to a park ranger a few days later, and she confirmed that it was indeed the January 2003 fires, and while many species of Australian trees regenerate quite profilically after a bushfire, snow gums regenerate from lignotubers underground. So sadly the old growth above ground is dead, and we are talking 'decades', rather than just 'years' before the stands of snowgums have regenerated to anything like they were before the fire. She told me that when she worked at Perisher in the 70s, the trees were still recovering from the fires of 1939.

This picture, of burnt snowgums on the left there, taken as we drove into Perisher, is the best one I have to show the regrowth at ground level.

On our way across from Cooma to Yarrangobilly, the forests of (what I found out later to be) Alpine Ash looked similarly decimated, but with them, apparently, the whole tree dies, leaving new seedlings generated from the fire. [ "Fire kills most Alpine Ash but triggers the release of millions of seeds which are protected from fire by woody capsules high in the canopy.The seeds quickly spring into life aided by increased light levels and the nutrients in the ash bed. Alpine Ash takes 30 years to mature and produce seeds, so fires of less than30 year intervals would kill trees that have not yet had a chance to produce seeds and could result in the death ofthe Alpine Ash forest. "]

[Scientific evidence tended at an enquiry into the 2003 bushfires stated that "for some of the snow gum country you are probably looking at in excess of 50 to 75 years before you will see full recruitment and composition of those communities that existed before".]

While I'm on a scientific educational bent, here are a couple of interesting links -pretty much all I could find online that was relevant. I did expect to find more information out there, and have been a bit disappointed.

The first is a pictorial account of the aftermath of the Perisher fires - only a month later. The areas they mention are pretty much the areas we skied around - given we didn't travel too far from base with the kids.

This one is a longer report, but interesting.

It would be great to take the kids further afield to experience the wonders of back country skiing in the region. (And to areas unblemished by those fires.) I don't know that logistics will allow us to do so every year, but I did read somewhere that the impact of climate change on Australia may mean that in another 30 years it simply won't snow on the Australian Alps anymore. Of course in the meantime, the risk of more bushfires increases.

A sobering and saddening thought. It makes me wonder if we should seize the chance while we can. What is happening to our world?



It is so sad, isn't it Tracey.

One thing I also grew up with, as my father was a cattleman and had some very good teachers - white and black - was that judicious burning regularly meant that the deadly wildfires don't have as much fuel, and therefore won't scar as fully.

Unfortunately, total fire bans for 20-30 years meant that there was plenty of undergrowth for fires to take complete hold - and the results are devastating, aren't they?

By the way - have you ever been through the Cooma (I think) region? There are NO TREES except those planted by Europeans, as that is the natural habitat - or at least, that is what we were told.
Yep, that second link sort of discusses the issue of controlled burning and the way the aborigines used to do it.

Yes, indeed, we did go through Cooma - I think they call themselves the Gateway to the Snowy Mountains! (Maybe I should scan in a map while I'm giving a geography lesson! They are called the Monaro Plains - treeless and characterised by those granite boulders. Wish I'd taken a photo of them now, but here are a couple of links:

This link has a bit of info,
and also this one has a photo.

There are of course other areas of the snowys that are treeless, some because they are simply above the treeline!

After our stint at 'the snow', we travelled from Cooma across (and northerly) to Tumut, through Adaminaby, and Kiandra. Kiandra is another treeless area that was once home to a very shortlived goldrush...
Hi Tracey, just been catching up, and it looks like you all had a great time. Of course one advantage of cross-country with your kids is that you are all likely to go at roughly similar speeds; give it a few years with our boys on downhill and I know I won't see them for dust! And the first time I ever skied was cross-country, and guess what? My thumb hurt for weeks afterwards... Glad to know I'm in good company!
Hi PM! Go the thumbs!

Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?