BLS Bushfire Recovery Project - Final Report
The Shoalhaven was severely impacted by the 2019-2020 bushfires, which affected over 80% of its land area, including over 90% of our national parks, state forests and crown land.
The BLS Bushfire Recovery Project looked at the recovery of bird populations from the peak period of the fires in January 2020 to December 2022.
The primary aim of the project was to examine changes in bird species richness and abundance by analysing 744 bird surveys recorded by volunteers in the three-year period at different fire-affected sites.
The primary findings from the project were that:
• In terms of species richness, more bird species were recorded on average in unburnt areas compared to burnt areas, though there has been a gradual reduction in this difference over the three years. (Refer Section 2, Graphs 2)
• However, in terms of species abundance, while greater numbers of birds were recorded in unburnt areas compared to burnt areas, there was no reduction in this difference over the three years. (Refer Section 3, Graphs 4)
This could suggest that, while more species are moving back into burnt areas from unburnt areas, this is still not occurring in high numbers of birds. This could be explained by habitat in burnt areas not having recovered sufficiently after three years to support the same abundance of birds as in unburnt areas.
The final report expands on this and looks at the impacts of the bushfires on both individual and groups of species, species considered by the Australian Government as bushfire recovery priorities and in the Shoalhaven’s Key Biodiversity Areas.
While the aims of the project focussed on changes in bird species richness and abundance, it also delivered social outcomes. The project evolved over the three years and became multi-faceted; making casual bird observations, completing surveys, preparing reports, helping landowners, supporting arts events, running bird courses, organizing bird walks and giving presentations. Importantly, new connections were made through a long period of slow recovery. In many ways, these social outcomes have been just as important as the primary focus of the project.