Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Leaf litter, little critters, and preventing bushfires - whoda thunk it!

A missive of interest from Denis at The Nature of Robertson.  

This might not sound interesting to you, at first, but I am sending it as there is a Castlemaine connection.

However, on one of my Moth weekends at CSIRO last year, one of the scientists there told me had done a study on the importance of insects which break down leaf litter, as a key ingredient to fire protection strategies.

Hint. If you kill off these micro-critters, the leaf litter builds up, and you end up with a huge amount of what the Firies refer to as "fuel".

in other words, if you do not destroy the micro-organisms, the bush stays healthy, and burns less often or less "hot".

Anyway. you might be able to get hold of the book, or follow up this woman some time.


As an example of the hidden, unseen, things which silently chew away at stuff, here is just one of my Fungi photos with minute creatures living inside it.
They are not "insects" - wrong number of legs.
Technically arthropods.
Doesn't matter how or why, it is just exciting that somebody has written a book about such a topic, and managed to get it published.

All power to her, I say.

  • those arthropods are "springtails" - look like minute "Slaters", but in fact they are less than 1/10th the size of a "slater" - photo attached jst for interest.


Explorations for the curious

I've recently enjoyed introducing a range of people to Rachel Tonkin's Leaf Litter (Harper, 2006) 
The large format picture book has 14 double-page paintings depicting the diversity of life, action, death and life cycles amongst the leaf litter typical of southern Australia's temperate woodlands. 
Tonkin is based in Castlemaine so the species she's accurately shown are familiar. The range of species is enhanced by lift-the-flap excitement on each page and ten additional challenges for the observant to find are listed ahead of the excellent glossary. Below each page a detailed text suggests and explains features for searches and sharing both above and below ground level.  
Leaf Litter  is a beautiful book and a colourful way to convince people that rather than being dead, drab and lifeless, leaf litter is teaming with nutrient-generating organisms from microbes to invertebrates and reptiles, frogs and small mammals. Foraging birds enter each scene. Plants' form and seasonal changes give each painting structure with an ancient eucalypt focussing attention on textures and natural patterns. 
The paperback edition is available from the Botanical Bookshop for $18 and opens out nearly as well as the original hardback copies. Leaf Litter  is an ideal introduction to the vitality and essential nature of soil and an affirmation that we cannot afford to destroy the ground layer of the land.
                     It's also available online through Booktopia,

Rosemary Blemings
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