|Ten News footage of the Gnawarre tanker in flames at Stonehaven|
|Man-made lake and remnant bushland in the Ocean Grove Nature Reserve|
With the arrival of white settlement however, things have changed somewhat. Clearfell logging has had an impact on the ability of the area to withstand bushfire damage and both have had a significant effect on water catchment capacity and water quality. Clearfell logging in the Otways ceased in May, 2008. It is predicted that within 60 years if no further logging takes place that water yields will increase by 10%.
Over time, damaged areas of bushland will regenerate, however even this comes at a cost to short term water catchment capacity. Young trees draw water from the soil, evaporating it through their leaves as they respire and grow. Old growth trees by contrast retard the flow of runoff water through the soil which remains moist, allowing more time for it to drain into the creeks and rivers of the catchment area. Likewise, bushfire can not only damage old growth trees, but it draws moisture from the ground which would otherwise end up in the catchments.
|Section of regrowth and old growth forest at West Barwon Dam|
Bushfire management has come a long way since then and not surprisingly, the threat of bushfire in the Otways and along the Barwon is very much a "hot topic". So much so in fact that the authorities responsible for developing safety strategies in the region (the Department of Sustainability and Energy and Parks Victoria) have won the Motorola Innovation Knowledge Agency Award for those deemed the most progressive in the fields of fire and emergency.
Let's hope their innovations are effective!