Town trials new management technique to restore flora diversity

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On 19 May 2020, the Town’s Hillview Bushland became a site for a smoking trial that was conducted in partnership with the Town of Victoria Park’s Natural Areas team and the DBCA Biodiversity and Conservation Science department, based at King’s Park. 

The Biodiversity and Conservation Science team have worked on a smoking treatment, which mimics the natural process of dormant seeds to receive specific fire cues and emerge as seedlings in a relatively resource-rich post-fire environment. 

Fire can provide soil-stored seeds with germination or dormancy-breaking cues that may not be present in the absence of fire, and therefore fire is a key process regulating recruitment and overall plant population dynamics. 

Experimentally applying fire through a smoking process also provides a means to assess the soil seed bank and help predict post-fire vegetation response. 

From an urban forest perspective, successful smoking treatment can help the successful planting of many seeds of endemic plants, shrubs and trees and fits in with its Implementation Action Plan goals of:

  • Increase tree diversity, whilst favouring local endemic and Western Australian species that also support wildlife (strategic outcome 3).

  • Maintaining a high standard of vegetation health (strategic outcome 4).

  • Improve urban ecosystem (strategic outcome 6).

The ultimate aim of the smoking trial was to investigate whether fire could be used as a management tool to restore the rich diversity plant life and habitat at the Town’s remaining Banksia Woodlands. 

The smoking technique is part of a wider soil seed bank survey which involves a method of sealing plots of topsoil under plastic then injecting smoke under the plastic in order to penetrate the topsoil test site. 

Next, the Biodiversity and Conservation Science team and the Town’s relevant staff will monitor the germination rates of the local plant species involved in the smoking trial to determine Hillview Bushland’s sustainability for a control burn. 

A big thank you to research scientist, Russell Miller and Dr Ben Miller, the Principal Research Scientist in Fire Ecology at DBCA’s Biodiversity and Conservation Science who implemented the smoking trial and provided the necessary equipment.

Watch this space as we provide an update of the smoking trial measurements. 

In the meantime, find out more about similar “Greening Vic Park” projects around Town that are contributing to our community-led Urban Forest Strategy.