Newington Nature Reserve is a gazetted nature reserve protected under the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Act 1974 for its high ecological values. It is also listed on the NSW State Heritage Register as part of the ‘Newington Armament Depot and Nature Reserve’. The Reserve is managed by Sydney Olympic Park Authority by arrangement with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).
As the land was previously used by the Department of Defence to store armaments and ammunition, fire was deliberately excluded in the area for over 100 years. NPWS Best Practice Guidelines recommend a fire interval of 15-30 years to maintain the floristic and structural diversity of the critically endangered Sydney Turpentine and Ironbark Forest (STIF) within the Reserve. The STIF is an ecological community of trees, shrubs, herbs, grasses and numerous animal species. Over 200 plant species have been recorded, including 28 species of regional significance, and new species continue to be recorded.
Plant surveys in the Reserve showed that over time, plant species that use fire as a trigger for reproduction or recruitment have declined while moisture-loving plants were increasing among other changes. An ecological burn was necessary to return the forest to the target forest type.
The burn occurred on 5 April 2018, when 6 hectares of Newington Nature Reserve forest underwent a low-intensity controlled burn by NPWS and the NSW Fire and Rescue Service.
Fire heats the soil, cracking seed coats and triggering germination for wattles, and peas such as Australian Indigo (Indigofera australis). For plants such as Hakea propinqua, fire also triggers woody seed pods held in the canopy to open, releasing seed onto a fresh and fertile ash bed.
Plants such as the Dwarf Wedge Pea (Gompholobium minus) recover rapidly, resprouting via root suckers or basal sprouts, providing new growth that is food for many animals. Fire also helps to create hollows in logs and trees that are used by animals for nesting and shelter.
We thank NPWS and NSW Fire and Rescue for their expertise in controlled burns and are excited to see the regeneration of the forest.