Ecological burn sparks new life for Lake Mac site

Lake Macquarie City Council

Natural Assets Coordinator Dominic Edmonds with a Platysace ericoides native shrub not previously found on the Jewells site.jpg

A groundbreaking ‘ecological burn’ in Lake Mac has helped transform a degraded tract of coastal scrub into a thriving ecosystem bursting with healthy native vegetation.

Lake Macquarie City Council put a match to more than 5ha of land off Fencott Drive at Jewells in September 2021, aiming to control coastal tee trees that had strangled out other species since being planted after sand mining in the area in the 1970s.

Coordinator Natural Assets Dominic Edmonds said a controlled ecological burn had two benefits: controlling the dominant coastal tea trees and providing the heat needed to germinate other native flora seeds lying dormant underground.

“You never really know what you’re going to get in a situation like this, because the quantity and diversity of that seed bank can’t be known until a fire goes through the area,” he said.

“But we’ve seen some fantastic results. We’ve logged almost 30 new species on the site so far, including 10 that haven’t been recorded in this area before.”

“Some of those are really interesting and unusual plants we weren’t expecting to see.”

They include Macarthuria neocambrica, a native ground-cover, Pseudanthus orientalis, a native sprawling shrub, and Amperea xiphoclada, a native grassy shrub.

Council officers have visited the site at regular intervals over the past two years to survey progress and monitor for any interference from humans or introduced species.

“It has been a great success, with most of the community taking heed of our signs and staying off the site,” Mr Edmonds said.

“We did have a few hares nibbling at the shoots in the early days after the burn, but not enough to do any significant damage.”

The project’s success has prompted plans for a similar ecological burn nearby, likely to occur this winter.

“This whole area is an important green corridor, but a lot of it has been degraded – historically by sand mining, and more recently by invasive weeds like lantana,” Mr Edmonds said.

“Strategies we employ now will help improve biodiversity, reduce the risk of wildfires and will regenerate native bushland for the long term.”

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