The 2019-2020 fires had a devastating impact on East Gippsland’s rainforest ecosystems and biodiversity, with close to 5,000 hectares of rainforest affected by fire.

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) Biodiversity Recovery Coordinator, Marc Perri said: “This is 70 per cent of Victoria’s warm temperate, dry and gallery rainforest environment. 

“But there is some good news among the devastation: a rare rainforest dependent species of tree in the Wood Point Flora Reserve on the Snowy River in East Gippsland has survived, but only just,” Mr Perri said.

Images:  Buff Hazelwood 1 and Buff Hazelwood 2

“About 20 percent of the population of Buff Hazelwood (Symplocos thwaitesii) has come through the fires - some of the oldest trees, believed to be more than 200 years old are still there, and most of the younger plants have also survived in this patch. 

“It’s listed as an endangered species under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act and Wood Point is the only known location of the tree in Victoria. 

“DELWP has been working in partnership with the Moogji Aboriginal Council, Royal Botanic Garden (RBG), and Bairnsdale Field Naturalists Club over the last decade to ensure the survival of this species.

“It’s a preferred food source for Sambar deer and is very sensitive to fire, so it needs immediate help to recover, survive and thrive.

“Over the years, we’ve conducted surveys to find its area of distribution and number of plants, collected seed for the RBG seed bank and monitored the impact of Sambar deer. 

“The Moogji Natural Resource Management team has constructed deer exclusion fences and cages to protect the species and provide opportunity for young plants to establish, and controlled weeds like Blackberry and Blue Periwinkle. 

“Planned burns have been done in the area to reduce the risk of high severity fire impacting the rainforest stands it is dependent on for survival.

“All this work has helped the species survive this year’s fires and we will now work together to repair damaged fences and cages to protect against deer and investigate the viability of the RBG seed bank. 

“We’re preparing to use the seed, along with fresh cuttings from trees that survived the fire to propagate plants for revegetation within fenced areas or for planting at other sites on private and public land. 

The Victorian Government’s Bushfire Biodiversity Relief and Early Recovery funding is targeting deer and weed control to reduce the immediate threats on rainforest recovery. 

Regards 

Rachel Dawkins |Media and Communications Adviser| Gippsland
Forest, Fire and Regions | Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning