The bushfires that tore through the Australian state of Victoria in February 2009 incinerated over a million acres of land, including key mountain ash forest ecosystems. Fires are a natural force of nature which spur regeneration, but the immediate aftermath of this giant firestorm was devastation. By the time the fires subsided, 173 people had lost their lives, over one million acres of mountain ash forest had been destroyed, and countless animals had perished. The overwhelming firestorm was one of the worst in the country’s history, and came to be known as Black Saturday.
But fires, although destructive, are essential for the long-term health of forests. Following Black Saturday, life demonstrated its remarkable resilience even in the middle of burned and blackened wilderness. Within weeks, the great forests began to turn green again. Flowers, grasses, fungi, and mosses all repopulated the area in a great rush of regeneration. Birds, encouraged by signs of recovery, returned to take up their lives again.
However, much of the wildlife that escaped the flames needed help. Rescued animals that had been burned and traumatized by the fires were tenderly nursed back to health at wildlife health centers by volunteers and veterinarians alike. Koalas, wallabies, wombats, kangaroos, echidnas, birds, endangered possums, and even fish all benefited from their care. Not every rescued animal survived, but the efforts of these caring individuals were crucial in saving those that did.
Nature: Survivors of the Firestorm follows the phoenix-like story of Victoria’s wildlife, the fall and rise of the great mountain ash forests and all that dwell within them, and the extraordinary capacity of a damaged natural world to bounce back.
Teacher resources may be found here.
Tune in March 21 at 8:00 p.m. on WCVE PBS/WHTJ PBS
SOLs: Science-LS.1, LS.6, LS.8, LS.10