Restoration of Mires (bogs and fens) in the Australian Alps following domestic stock grazing and the impacts of the 2003 wildfires

Roger Good on behalf of the Mire Restoration and Research Group
Australian Alps Liaison Committee, 2009

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Background

A number of wildfires have burnt across the Australian Alps in past years, the most extensive being the 1939 and 2003 wildfires. The 2003 fires burnt some 1.5m hectares, the majority of which was within the Australian Alps national parks in New South Wales (NSW), Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).

Some 8500ha of alpine mires existed in the Australian Alps at the time of European settlement but approximately half of this area was destroyed by cattle and sheep grazing during the grazing era (1830s to 1960s in NSW; to 2004 in Victoria).

During the 2003 wildfires almost all the alpine, subalpine and montane mires (bogs and fens) were burnt, with a further loss of about 15 percent of the functional bogs and fens existing at the time. Immediately following the fires it was recognised that many bog and fen areas were at immediate risk due to post-fire runoff and subsequent peat incision, peat drying and erosion, unless some remedial actions were taken.

A program of restoration and revegetation of the burnt bogs and fens has been and continues to be implemented by the managers of the individual national parks within the Australian Alps national parks Co-operative Management Agreement.

This restoration work aims to initiate and enhance the capacity of the bogs and fens to fully recover their functional hydrological role in the mountain catchments; that of storing large quantities of snowmelt and runoff water; regulating and spreading flow regimes in downstream creeks and rivers throughout the year, as well as filtering sediments and other pollutants from the runoff flows.