As a result of our changing climate, increases in droughts, declines in rainfall and increases in air temperature, the declared fire danger period in our region is increasing in duration. Over 30,000 Little Penguins (Eudyptula minor) breed on the Summerland Peninsula on Phillip Island (Millowl). Fire can have a devastating short and long term effect on colonial nesting species such as Little Penguins and Short-tailed shearwaters (Ardenna tenuirostris) due to their synchronous breeding. Even cool burns in winter can decrease burrow density in the long term due to increased soil instability. In recent years, several fires through penguin colonies in Victoria have caused death or injury of many Little Penguins. In each case, penguins did not avoid fire, suggesting that they are poorly adapted to such situations. The Little Penguin population is at increased risk from these projected increases in hot, dry and dusty weather which may cause fire. Individual deaths and injuries, as well as impacts to the quality of nesting habitat and breeding success may occur.
Anthropogenic activities such as discarded cigarette butts and hot car exhausts coming into contact with flammable vegetation can start fires under these hotter and drier conditions. The Summerland Peninsula is a recreational hotspot, particularly over the summer period where visitation in the area significantly increases which, in turn, increases the risk of fires around roads and carpark areas.
Funding support from Kane Constructions of $25,000, allowed for the removal of flammable weeds, planting of more fire-resistant native species and enabled clear delineation of informal carpark boundaries through better car park design at high-risk areas such as Point Sambell and Shelly Beach by the end of 2020, ultimately resulting in a safer habitat for Little Penguins in the event of fire.
Specifically, this support provided the removal of flammable weeds, revegetation of more fire-resistant native species and enabled clear delineation of informal carpark areas within wildlife habitat at high fire risk points on the Summerland Peninsula.
• Approximately 350 bollards were installed across four carparks and nine informal pull-offs along the south coast road.
• 990 native species were planted
• Three days spent spraying winter weeds, with an extra two allocated for late spring/early summer weeds in 2020.
These works have resulted in a safer habitat for Little Penguins in the event of fire on the Summerland Peninsula. Thanks to Kane Constructions, Nature Parks teams have formalised car park boundaries by installing bollards, laying gravel, spraying weeds around the perimeter, and then planting out the surrounding areas using native species with low-flammability: primarily Bower Spinach (Tetragonia implexicoma).
As well as reducing the likelihood of fire, the bollards prevent vehicles from encroaching further on to habitat