Australia is currently experiencing its worst bushfires ever. About 12 million acres have burned since the fires began, devouring the nation.
This has had a huge impact on families, communities, wildlife, vegetation and the country itself.
In this article, we will take a look at the impact that bushfires have on soil erosion and vegetation and what each of us can do to help heal our wounded nation.
Fires burn plants and organic matter with intense heat. When all these materials are burned, they are reduced to ashes, and in turn, loosens the soil. This significantly reduces the stability of the landscape as a whole.
Once the fire has died down, wind and water can easily erode the surfaces and move loosened debris to other areas.
This not only weakens the land, but ash and other waste may be carried into dams and creeks, increasing bacteria and algae growth. The extra sediment finding its way into the natural waterways reduces the oxygen available, suffocating the native fish species.
After an area experiences a fire, it needs time to recover as it has just gone through a severely extreme phase.
An Italian study showed that soil can actually recover quickly after fires. According to the researchers, burned materials can provide minerals and nutrients to the soil that assist in its regeneration.
They explained that high temperatures promote bacteria and nutrient growth, which is why soil typically recovers well after fires. Though this is the case, the issue of erosion is still there and should be managed.
Whilst it is impossible to control on erosion over 12 million hectares, erosion control systems using coir matting/jute matting and coir logs can reduce sediment runoff in critical riparian areas. This reduces further damage to our sensitive ecosystems.
Non-biodegradable products such as silt fence can be installed along slopes to reduce water velocity and further soil movement, allowing young saplings to rejuvenate from the fires. It gives them time to grow and establish themselves, rather than being washed done the slope in a heavy rain event.
Giving young plants the time to recover without the threat of erosion is essential.