Bush returns to life

Article image - Bush returns to life Signs of new life: Spectacular Rust Gill (Gymnopilus junonius) forms a colourful cluster on the base of a blackened tree.

Before being almost entirely consumed by the catastrophic December 2019 Cudlee Creek Bushfire, the Lobethal Bushland Park was teeming with life. 

The heritage-listed 118ha remnant bushland reserve in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia, was home to 194 native plant species (including 12 endangered) and a host of conservation-significant reptiles and mammals. Some 89 species of birds lived within a one kilometre radius.

This biodiversity was hard won over many years, said Tonia Brown, Biodiversity Officer with the Adelaide Hills Council, which has owned the park since 1997. The site had been extensively mined and logged, and provided the township of Lobethal with water via two manmade reservoirs until the early 1980s.

“Our Council, the South Australian Government and Friends of Lobethal Bushland Park volunteers have collaborated over many years to remove noxious weeds and nurture the abundant native flora and fauna – so the destruction in the wake of the bushfire was truly devastating.

“The quiet was eerie – just awful.”

In the aftermath, Council closed the park, and supported various organisations, including South Australian Veterinary Emergency Management (SAVEM) to rescue injured wildlife; the Australian Defence Force and Team Rubicon to clear dead trees and make the area safe; Conservation Volunteers Australia to remove destroyed fencing and broken glass; and the Friends volunteers in removing
emerging weeds.

Four months on, Tonia says the park is ‘making a magnificent recovery in response to the frequent rains and autumn sunshine’.

“Most of the eucalyptus trees have resprouted, with a flurry of epicormic growth, and Bracken Fern and other understorey species are now carpeting the forest floor. The Yaccas are even more remarkable, with most in full flower and stalks reaching up to six metres!

“And animals are returning: we’ve seen a few kangaroos – and a number of woodland birds and Common Eastern Froglets are starting to fill the silence.”

Council has reopened nearly all sections of the park’s five walking trails, and is working to rebuild the destroyed and damaged trail infrastructure and amenities.