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Amazing bush recovery follows 2003 firestorm

A view from the top of Brindabella National Park, top, after the January 2003 fires, and the same scene in 2012, below.

A view from the top of Brindabella National Park, top, after the January 2003 fires, and the same scene in 2012, below. Photo: CSIRO

This remarkable compilation of photographs tells the story of the slow recovery of the countryside around Canberra after the 2003 bushfires.

Since the firestorm that raged through the territory 10 years ago, CSIRO scientists have been keeping a photographic record of the land's regeneration at more than 50 sites in the Brindabella mountains.

The leader of the CSIRO research project, Michael Doherty, said the vegetation plots in the study were established in 1996 and 1997 as part of a vegetation survey and mapping project.

This sequence of CSIRO photos shows a section of bush in the Brindabella National Park, from how it originally looked in 1997, the impact of the 2003 bushfires that spread to Canberra and how the area has slowly regrown over the years to 2012. Click for more photos

Regrowth in the Brindabellas

CSIRO pictures shows vegetation in Brindabellas, showing scenes in 1997, how the area was devastated in the 2003 bushfires and the regeneration over the years to 2012. Photo: CSIRO

However, the devastating fires that swept through the mountains in 2003 created the conditions for a ''natural experiment'' in regeneration.

The team from the organisation's ecosystem sciences division studied sites in the Burrinjuck Nature Reserve, Brindabella National Park and Bimberi Nature Reserve in NSW to the west of the capital.

Of the 500 plant species documented by the researchers, the study found that none were lost, despite the intensity of the fires.

Plants badly damaged by the flames were able to cling onto life and sprout fresh shoots, while those specimens completely destroyed by the blaze were able to regenerate from existing seed stock.

''The Brindabella study shows how remarkable and resilient the Australian bush is,'' Mr Doherty said.

''Even in the field sites where plants and trees were intensely burnt in 2003, the bush is bouncing back strongly.

''The amount of vegetation burnt varies from site to site, but we haven't lost any species - they are all recovering, either by resprouting or growing back from seeds stored in the soil or on the plants,'' he said.

''We have been able to map the recovery of the bush over the 10 years since the fire by comparing it with the vegetation that was there in 1996 when we first set up the survey sites.''

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