Photographer captures early signs of life re-emerging across fire-ravished landscapes in Australia
Nature photographer Murray Lowe took a break from his “normal coastal sunrise images” to capture the the devastation caused by the fires near his home in New South Wales.
Walking through Dhurag National Park, he was surprised to find patches of vibrant green grass bursting through the grey ash and rose-colored leaves sprouting through charred tree trunks.
The photos have gotten tens of thousands of likes and shares since Lowe posted them on Facebook Jan. 6.
“The ground puffed up ash into the air from each footstep as we walked among the tree trunks in the eerie silence and stillness that only fires of this intensity can produce,” Lowe told BBC News.
Yet, “even without any rain, life bursts through the burnt bark from the heart of the trees and the life cycle begins again,” he wrote on Facebook.
A more recent series of photos posted on Jan. 11 shows even more growth after a light rainfall.
Lowe notes the spiral of leaves pictured in the photo above are cradling several drops of water which seems to be attracting and supporting ants and other insect life.
“There is life out there and so marvelous to see it all once again regaining it’s foothold on this parched landscape,” he writes.
The plant species have experienced fires for tens of millions of years, creating an evolutionary pressure for them to develop the ability to recover after being burnt, fire ecologist Kimberley Simpson told BBC News.
Many Australian tree species, including Eucalyptus, have epicormic buds hidden deep beneath thick bark, which insulates them from intense heat, she says.
Many shrubs and grasses are also protected from fire by an insulating layer of soil, meaning they can re-sprout quickly.
However, the size and severity of this season’s fires “raise concerns about the survival of even species that are adapted to fire,” Simpson said.
The high temperatures of the fires, combined with unprecedented drought, are likely to push many species “beyond their ability to recover,” she said.
Particularly concerning is the impact on Australia’s rain-forests, which don’t normally experience fire and are poorly equipped to recover from it.