iNaturalist Australia is excited to say they hit 1 million observations in mid-April only six months after its launch. A grand effort thanks to all the keen Australian citizen scientists for uploading observations and the expert identifiers for verifying sightings.
iNaturalist Australia is proving to be a popular platform for insect and plant observations. From the recent City Nature Challenge results we can see that 28% of observations were insects and 42% plants.
The global iNaturalist network is one of the most successful citizen science platforms in the world, with instances in 10 different countries. The iNaturalist Australia community is very active with over 18,000 observers and over 8,000 identifiers
New look for iNaturalist Australia
The global iNaturalist brand has recently had a refresh and iNaturalist Australia has joined in too. The iNaturalist Australia logo now looks like this – so keep an eye out for bright green bird!
iNaturalist and the ALA
Collaborating with iNaturalist is a wonderful opportunity for the Atlas of Living Australia and our users. It provides an easy-to-use desktop and mobile platform, support for species identification, and tools for assessing data quality. All iNaturalist Australia data is regularly fed into the ALA.
Human observation data – individual sightings of species – are a valuable part of the ALA. This data helps to create a more detailed picture of our national biodiversity, and assists scientists and decision makers to deliver better outcomes for the environment and our species. iNaturalist Australia’s species identification features and data quality measures ensure individual sightings are more valuable than ever.
People-powered science will play a role in Australia’s bushfire recovery, with more than 20 projects underway involving citizen scientists of all ages.
Projects on the website include:
Australian Museum project Wildlife Spotter enables users to identify animals in photos taken by camera traps around Australia, assisting researchers in monitoring the effects of bushfires on Australian fauna.
South Australia’s Department for Environment and Water are using camera traps to monitor the flora and fauna recovery on Kangaroo Island.
There are several projects which people can contribute their sightings of plants and wildlife returning to fire affected areas.
Some projects also collect information about the intensity of fire impacts, observed fire behaviour, effects on water quality running off of fire grounds, and impacts of the smoke on people’s health.
The Project Finder also features a geographic filter enabling users to identify available projects in their area. It can be accessed at www.csiro.au/bushfireprojects.
Many weed species in the Blue Mountains are ‘fire-responsive’. Post-fire conditions make it easy for weeds to establish due to favourable conditions, they germinate prolifically and can spread vigorously within the first few seasons.
Weed species gradually establish long-term soil seed banks that are triggered to germinate en masse by fire. In the absence of targeted weed control, weed species rapidly spread and can form a dense ‘carpet’, outcompeting native species.
However, this can be to your advantage. It’s a great time to treat weed infestations as they are more accessible than ever before. Usually they are the first to emerge, easy to spot but also easy to access. If you control emergent weeds before they set seed, you’ll be able to get on top of these weedy patches much more quickly. Timely post-fire management action (usually within 18 months) is necessary for control.
Improved access post-fire provides an excellent opportunity to control weeds that are not usually easily accessible. This certainly applies to dense riparian vegetation and our Blue Mountains Swamp communities, where the dense vegetation impedes access to established weeds, or wherever the foliage of established weeds is beyond the reach of physical or chemical methods. Unless burnt, weeds in these locations usually escape control efforts. Post-fire, the sparse vegetation allows the foliage of resprouting taller weed species to be easily located and within range of control.
Weed Species proliferation post fire
There are several ways weed species can proliferate after fire:
Weed seed bank explosion in usually unaffected areas
Kill or reduce the number of established mature plants but post-fire conditions are ideal for the seed bank to explode
Resprout from base of mature plants
Burn or char the weed species, then plant sends up numerous suckers
Each of these reproductive pathways requires a different weed management strategy
Weed seed bank explosion in usually unaffected areas
Weed seeds can remain dormant in the soil for many years.The fruits of weeds are attractive to a wide range of animals that can spread seeds such as foxes, rabbits and bird species. Seeds can also be spread by dispersal from the parent plant or by wind or water. This may increase the number of weeds present at a site in the short term. But over time and with weed treatment it can deplete the weed soil seed bank, and be replaced by native species and a healthier natural state in the long term.
Likely pathways of weed seedlings germinating in areas previously clear of weed species are post-fire flooding, wind and bird distributed seeds from neighbouring unburnt areas. Post-fire these seedlings once mature, set seed and are likely to spread dramatically.
An opportunity exists where, a weed seed bank explosion can lead to a weed seed bank depletion. Fire can result in one-off increases in weed densities, which after subsequent fires rapidly decline if weed treatment is quick and consistent. If weed seedlings are not controlled, they will outcompete native seedlings, exhausting the native soil seedbank.
Consistent follow-up seedling control is necessary in areas of low fire intensity, near water sources, and where seeds have dispersed into the burnt area from unburnt sections of the population. This can happen particularly in the Blue Mountains where seed from unburnt areas can carry down a slope and be deposited on burnt ground. The removal of these seedlings before they mature and set seed is a high priority.
Weeds commonly displaying this type of fire response in the Blue Mountains include:
Depending on fire intensity and thickness of the weed species trunk or stem, fire can kill adult plants with little or no re sprouting post-fire. However, weed seeds are long lived, remain in the soil and can be triggered to germinate by fire. Many of the Blue Mountains most invasive and pervasive woody weeds fall into this group.
Trees and shrubs – some trees and shrubs are killed by fire and do not sucker or resprout post-fire, these plants rely solely on seed to regenerate. Many germinate straight after fires. The removal of seedlings and juveniles before they mature and set seed is a high priority.
Trees commonly displaying this type of fire response in the Blue Mountains include:
Woody Weeds – A hot fire will kill mature wood weeds but encourage mass germination of seeds, occurring in denser, more vigorous patches. Once these become established, they quickly produce large amounts of seed. Mass germination can reduce the weed soil seed bank over time, but only through sufficient follow-up weed treatments over many years, otherwise a denser infestation is likely to result.
Climber, scrambler or creeper – Usually fire kills adult climbers, scramblers and creepers, but triggers germination in the soil weed seed bank. These seeds dependent on the species can return in denser infestations, particularly with climbers that produce many seeds in their fleshy fruits. These seeds are usually favoured by birds so may be found close to the parent plant or in a new location.
Some weeds resprout from the base of burnt mature plants from regenerative buds protected underground or beneath layers of bark. There is a short-term decrease and reduction in biomass and/or densities as mature plants are temporarily ‘weakened’ post fire. There is an opportunity to achieve better results if prompt weed treatment is undertaken on fire weakened weeds.
Trees and shrubs – Weed trees may resprout post-fire, but not for all species. • African Olive Olea europaea ssp. Cuspidate • Lantana Lantana spp.
Woody Weeds – Gorse evolved as a fire-climax plant, readily catching fire and burning to ground level but regenerating from the base after the fire. In the Blue Mountains look for: • Gorse Ulex europaeus
Climber, scrambler or creeper – When burnt these species may receive a boost post-fire with vigorous resprouting and/or seedling regeneration into fertile, sunny sites. Response is strongly dependent on fire severity.
Fire generally kills Blackberry’s seasonal canes but the root crown usually survives and regrowth can be quite vigorous after fire. Post-fire environments provide a unique opportunity for control as all foliage is accessible.
Climbing, scrambling and creeper weeds commonly displaying this type of fire response in the Blue Mountains include:
Bulbs, corms, tubers or rhizomes – Weeds species with a bulb, corm, rhizome or tuber are unlikely to be burnt by fire as the corms or tubers are protected from the heat by being located underground. Many species resprout vigorously post-fire and can invade bare ground.
The removal of corms or tubers is a high priority. Those with long strappy leaves can be treated by wiping (wiping herbicide along the strappy leaves with a herbicide wiper).
Weeds commonly displaying this type of fire response in the Blue Mountains include:
Weed species can sucker post-fire, meaning its principal means of propagation is suckering from the roots vegetatively. Trees under stress post-fire can send up numerous suckers as a defensive mechanism. This can lead to dense stands forming and a monoculture of the same species, excluding all native species from that site.
Weeds commonly displaying this fire response include suckering trees, suckering woody weeds and brambles.
Trees and shrubs – Mature Camphor Laurel trees have been documented suckering profusely after being burnt.
Weed management should be undertaken by killing the parent tree and suckering plants by treating each with herbicide. Weed trees commonly displaying this type of fire response in the Blue Mountains are:
• Tree of Heaven Ailanthus altissima • Weeping Willow Salix babylonica • Small and large leaf Privet Ligustrum spp. • Sycamore Platanus orientalis • Camphor laurel Cinnamomum camphora • Black Locust/Robinia Robinia pseudoacacia
Wood Weeds – There are a limited number of wood weeds that sucker or resprout post-fire in the Blue Mountains. These should be treated with herbicide as a high priority. Look for:
Weeds can act as a buffer to reduce erosion and as a cover crop for native seedlings and animals post fire while natural native regeneration occurs.
Erosion risk increases after a fire due to the lack of groundcover to stabilise the soil which slows down the speed of runoff. Weeds are usually the first plants to emerge after fire. If left for 3 to 6 months they can act as a ground layer, the plant roots stabilise the soil, and stems and leaves slow the water to give it time to percolate into the soil profile.
At the early stages any vegetation cover, including weeds can protect native seedlings. Weed seedlings grow quickly and can perform several jobs; protecting native seedlings from erosion, drying out, returning nutrients to the soil and to provide food and shelter for insects and animals.
Weeds can be helpful up until a point, then they can be the bushlands worst enemy if left too long.
Assess burnt areas for weeds and the best control methods for the species. Control and target weeds before seed set, but limiting trampling as much as possible while bushland is still fragile.
When to treat weeds?
The months following a bushfire are among the best times to control weed species. However, it is very important to remember to leave burnt areas alone for the first 3-6 months to allow the soil to recover and native seedlings to establish, as over enthusiastic weed control can cause damage.
Post fire, soil forms a crust (soil sealing) that protects and reduces the loss of soil, organic matter and seedbank from rain events and erosion. The crust is formed through a combination of elements; when rain hits the soil, it dislocates the silt and clay making way for moss, lichen, algae or fungi, and cyanobacteria to enter which then forms a surface crust.
The combined protective cover elements such as the soil crust and seedlings can protect the soil throughout the first-year post fire. Natural regeneration is the priority. Monitoring the site for weed growth indicators such as fresh new growth and flowering should be used as the cue for treatment. Take care to prevent any off-target damage to native plants.
Plant species which establish after environmental disturbances events are known as “colonisers” or colonising plant species. Following 2019-20 summer bushfires and floods, colonising plants are germinating from seed into the ground layer vegetation stratum. These autotrophic organisms (which produce their own energy as carbon from photosynthesis) are currently superabundant, capturing carbon for ecological communities across the Blue Mountains. This process is known as secondary ecological succession.
The below photo shows a local example of secondary ecological succession dominated by ground layer species Sigesbeckia orientalis and Australian Basket Grass (Oplismenus aemulus).
Interestingly, many colonising plant species are related members of certain plant families, such as the Grasses (Poaceae), Daisies (Asteraceae), Nightshades (Solanaceae), Peas (Fabaceae), and Mints (Lamiaceae). Some of the colonising species which are currently abundant post-fire and rain are listed in the Table below (Table 1).
Table 1: Examples of Colonising Plant Species
Right Angle Grass, Wiry Panic (Entolasia marginata)
Weeping Grass (Microlaena stipoides)
Australian Basket Grass (Oplismenus aemulus)
*Panic Veldtgrass (Ehrharta erecta)
*Fleabane (Conyza spp.)
Kangaroo Apple (Solanum aviculare)
*Blackberry Nightshade (Solanum nigrum)
Hickory Wattle (Acacia falcata)
Dusky Coral Pea (Kennedia rubicunda)
*Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius)
Cockspur Flower (Plectranthus parviflorus)
NB. * indicates introduced species
Practical Application – Revegetation
Planted colonising species often have high survivorship rates on revegetation sites. Succession planting describes using colonising plant species during the first stage of revegetation, similar to the process of ecological succession. As our climate continues to change, plantings can expect to be exposed to extreme heat, longer summers and long periods between rain events. Planting colonising plant species with a high survivorship and fecundity may improve the efficiency of long-term ecological restoration.
For example, widely distributed native colonising species that may be suitable for revegetation include Right Angle Grass (Entolasia spp.), Weeping Grass (Microlaena stipoides), Australian Basket Grass (Oplismenus aemulus), Sigesbeckia orientalis, Kangaroo Apple (Solanum aviculare), Hickory Wattle (Acacia falcata), Dusky Coral Pea (Kennedia rubicunda) and Cockspur Flower (Plectranthus parviflorus). The ecological communities found on your local Bushcare site will support locally adapted colonising plant species. Your local Bushcare Officer may be a good source of further advice on this topic.
Article by Karen Hising, Jan Allen and Keith Brister
Jan Allen, a very observant Bushcare volunteer from the Upper Mountains, found this beautiful Orchid. From research, we were not sure of the full identification, but we have been advised that it may be Chiloglottis seminuda – other experts may offer an opinion.
The genera Chiloglottis is also known as Wasp Orchid. The common name comes from the “callus” – the glands on the labellum, which resemble the body of a female wasp. Instead of being attracted by the general offer of nectar or pollen, many Orchid species, such as the native Chiloglottis genera, use sexual deception to attract male wasp pollinators. These Orchids emit an odorous pheromone very similar to the sexual pheromone produced by females of the pollinator species, thereby luring the male to the flower with the false offer of sex.
Pollination occurs when the male wasps attempt to copulate with structures on the Orchid labellum that mimic the wingless, ant-like female. The high degree of specificity between sexually-deceptive Orchids and their pollinators indicates that there must be subtle, but important, differences in the pheromones produced among even closely related Orchids.
CLICK below to read the book review – Orchids of the Blue Mountains by Sabine Hanisch and Ben Jasiak; how their daughter discovered a long lost orchid and also about the multi-billion dollar Bush Blitz project – a project finding thousands of new species.
Also check the Blue Mountains City Council – Connecting with Nature Our goal is to inspire the next generation – by connecting them to our special Blue Mountains environment and fostering their natural love of nature. In a learning experience unique to our City within a World Heritage Area, we offer local students the opportunity to explore their local water catchment, learn why it’s special and take action to protect it.
Great news! We have added a new page – VIDEOS to our Bushcare website where we can showcase Blue Mountains Bushcare and volunteers, the environment, threatened species, how to and other interesting segments.
Keep an eye out as we expand the video library. For the time being have a look at videos showing Bushcare South Lawson Park, Popes Glen Wasteland to Wetland, Saving the Callistemon megalongensis, Threatened species in the Blue Mountains and the Turtle Island Habitat launch.
CLICK on the clue listed under Across or Down – and this will highlight the corresponding boxes (purple) to fill in on the crossword.
To TYPE in the answer CLICK on the purple highlighted box in the crossword and start typing your answer (a correct answer turns the boxes green). If your answer was incorrect then use the backspace to delete then try again for this answer only!!
To RESET ANSWERS (all answers) scroll down the screenÂ below the crossword and CLICK Reset Answer (red button)
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Our Bushcare Team members are already taking photos around their homes and we came across these small bright red fungi showing Cruentamycena viscidocruenta (left and centre photos) growing on the wood pile and this strange red tentacle fungi – Aseroe rubra (right photo).
These fungi have important roles in the landscape including erosion prevention, forming mycorrhizal relationships with plants, food for animals and invertebrates, and the breakdown and recycling of nutrients from wood and other dead plant material.
What do you need? Armed with just a camera / mobile phone with the flashlight and a keen eye – these small, yet inconspicuous fungi can show a veritable range of brilliant colours and shapes.
So how can we identify these fungi? Our Bushcare volunteer ‘fungi expert’ Liz Kabanoff says by using inaturalist you can upload your own photo and it will try and work out what it is. If the picture is good, it works very well. Also take note of the substrate the mushroom is growing on (soil, woodchip, rotting wood, living wood, moss, insect etc) which will help rule things out. Other people may comment on your specimen and offer an ID.
Check Liz’s inaturalist project – Fungi in the Blue Mountains to see the incredible range of fungi that you may find. CLICK the link below.