A new study is preparing to examine the effect of hazard reduction burns on flora at Porcupine Reserve for the first time.
Former Gunnedarian and world-leading expert on plant flammability, associate professor Tim Curran has spent almost three decades conducting field-based vegetation surveys in Australia and New Zealand.
He is undertaking a fire management plan for the reserve and said the impact of this fire type on plants in the area was virtually unknown.
“That’s why it’s quite exciting because there has been quite a bit of research in coastal ecosystems, and in the arid zones and on the tablelands, but not so much on the western slopes,” Prof Curran said.
“There is some information from the extreme fire in the Warrumbungles but not a lot of research on the impact of hazard reduction burns on these sorts of species (on Porcupine Reserve).”
In recent weeks, Mr Curran has been working with Gunnedah Urban Landcare Group (GULG) in tagging a range of trees and shrubs at the reserve prior to a planned burn by the Rural Fire Service (RFS).
“We are taking measurements on aspects such as height and diameter, that can allow us to look at those trees after the fire to see if they have been killed or have survived and link it back to the type of species,” he said.
“It is building useful information about how hazard reduction burns might impact the plant species present on the reserve.”
Mr Curran said the plant study reason forms part of the wider fire management plan for Bindea (Porcupine Reserve) which he is completing on behalf of GULG.
“We had a workshop in April talking about fire ecology, fire management and that was attended by the RFS,” he said. “They have been in touch now to work out how to mitigate impacts on the environment.”
As a former local boy familiar with the Mount Porcupine area, Prof Curran was honoured to apply his skills and expertise in the area of his youth.
“I grew up on Stock Road, this is the hill where I learned to become an ecologist,” he said. “I bushwalked for hours and weeks up here.
“It is great to come back and share the knowledge that I’ve built up elsewhere over the last 20 years.”
He also commended the collaboration of the GULG for their local expertise and assistance.
“They have been really receptive, it has been great chatting to such a keen and active group in the community,” Mr Curran said.
GULG members and residents in the area surrounding Porcupine Reserve recently held a separate meeting to discuss the future of the lookout.
The land is owned by Crown Lands and managed by Gunnedah Shire Council but the original road and facilities were constructed by Gunnedah Apex Club in the 1950s. Some suggestions included wheelchair access, toilet amenities and barbecues to make the area more inviting for the community and visitors.
Prof Curran said the Porcupine Reserve hazard reduction burns were still in planning and dependent on prevailing weather conditions.