The sheer magnitude and intensity of the 2019-2020 bushfire crisis necessitated a coordinated and complementary effort to restore habitat and assist wildlife across eastern Australia. With the people and structures already in place, GER was in a unique position to be able to respond to this need through a staged approach that reacted quickly to the immediate threat, whilst ensuring the long-term restoration, resilience and connectivity of our land, wildlife and communities post-fire.
GER’s comprehensive Bushfire Recovery Plan comprises three phases:
Phase 1: Emergency relief
The first phase of recovery involved the immediate support of wildlife carer groups who were working to keep animals and birds impacted by the fires alive.
Phase 2: Restoration and recovery
The recovery and restoration phase of GER’s bushfire response involves three different types of project:
- Restoration of feed areas: Co-ordinated replanting of key feed areas with high nectar-producing shrubs and trees to support nomadic species such as flying foxes and honeyeaters, who will increasingly rely on these landscapes for survival in the next few years.
- Creation of habitat: The establishment of supplementary habitat for small, tree-dependent mammals such as gliding possums, phascogales and microbats through the installation of nest boxes to replace lost natural tree hollows. Projects also include the restoration of native understorey to increase insect prey numbers and improve general habitat structure, as well as strategic management of feral predators.
- Facilitating wildlife movement: The creation and enhancement of climate change corridors to enable movement, adaptation and recovery of koalas and other mobile, forest-dependent native species that need to disperse and recolonise habitat patches as they recover.
Phase 3: Building long-term resilience
The third phase of our long-term recovery efforts is focused on strengthening and consolidating the health and value of habitat in unburnt regions and helping to protect them from future fire events. Despite the enormity of the losses, substantial parts of the ranges remain unburnt and will be critical to the survival of a host of birds, mammals, reptiles and insects that have been pushed close to the edge of extinction through loss of core populations. In the case of areas that have been intensely devastated by the fires, we will work to re-age and re-wild these in the future to increase the diversity of plant species and support a greater range of wildlife.
Focus areas and activities
An initial desktop analysis was used to identify priority locations where habitat urgently needed to be restored post-fire and where unburnt habitat could be enhanced to help sustain wildlife. GER has already commenced a series of linked projects in these priority locations that combine at scale to deliver post-fire recovery and provide natural solutions to the climate and biodiversity crisis. These activities aggregate to
- Secure and enhance the habitat value of priority unburnt areas that provide vital refugia for wildlife.
- Work with GER’s existing network of local groups, landholders and connectivity conservation alliances to connect and up-scale cross-tenure, multi-property restoration of habitat corridors in priority areas.
- Restore the ecological structure and function of core areas of habitat in the Great Eastern Ranges as well as altitudinal gradients to the east coast where connectivity with the main ranges needs consolidation.
- Coordinate with conservation advocacy efforts and private land conservancy partners to ensure the continued protection of intact forest areas and the corridors that connect them.
To help identify specific project sites within each priority location, GER is supporting a large-scale, cross tenure research effort led by Griffith University and the Australian National University. The information that is collected will provide the basis for developing forest recovery plans and actions to improve conservation management, encourage natural regeneration and restoration, inform forest management and improve the ability of our forest ecosystems to adapt to a rapidly changing climate. Learn more.