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Bushfire Research Project (BRP)

The impact of the 2019-2020 and the slow recovery since
The Shoalhaven was severely impacted by the 2019-2020 fire season, suffering damage to over 60% of the region, including over 90% of our national parks, state forests and crown land.

The fire varied in intensity across the region. Straight after the fires low impacted areas supported small numbers of birds, while in vast ‘ground zero’ areas there was silence. With good and consistent rain since the fires, the habitat has slowly recovered, but this recovery has varied widely. Some of the ‘ground zero’ areas still show minimal change, almost 18 months later. The 2019-2020 fire season was a major throw of the evolutionary dice and the interactions of many factors will shape the future of our bird populations.

Identifying the long-term impact of fire on bird populations
To try to better understand the long-term impact of fire on bird populations in the Shoalhaven, BLS established a Bushfire Research Project (BRP). The long-term aim of the project is to examine changes in bird species richness and abundance in the Shoalhaven in the post-fire period.

The motivation for the project came from the local birdwatching community’s desire to contribute to the post-fire recovery effort. Overnight more people were submitting more surveys into BirdLife Australia’s (BirdLife) Birdata database than ever before. This has continued and increased since the launch of the project in March 2020 and through on-going presentations, social media and articles in the quarterly BLS Magazine.

BLS Bushfire Research Project 2020 Annual Report

Click here to download the report - BRP 2020 Annual Report.

In May 2021, BLS released its Bushfire Research Project 2020 Annual Report, which includes a foreword by Prof. Martine Maron, President BirdLife Australia.

This first project report analyses the species richness and abundance recorded by volunteers at sites of different fire severity within and outside the fire footprint. The report also looks at the impacts of the fires on individual species, species considered by the Australian Government as bushfire recovery priorities, nesting and feeding guilds and Shoalhaven’s Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs).

The report is based on over 250 bird surveys recorded at 100 different locations throughout the Shoalhaven. It also draws upon a further 150 surveys from sites that escaped the bushfires for comparison.

BLS appreciates the commitment to the project shown by local birdwatchers, who have contributed many hours of effort in the field. Without their support this report would not have been possible.

This is the first year’s report for what we hope will be a long-term project and we are keen to hear from any experienced birdwatchers in the Shoalhaven who want to get involved. If this is you, please contact Gary Brady, BLS Bushfire Research Project Coordinator at

We also hope the report will lead to partnerships with universities, as their research expertise and the involvement of students will both motivate the BLS volunteer team and help deliver the long-term aims of the project.

If any universities, researchers or academics would like to explore this further, please contact Rob Dunn, BirdLife Shoalhaven President at or 0438 250 600.

Bushfire Research Project case studies

The BLS quarterly magazines include several case studies, interviews, updates and reports relevant to the project:

2021 Spring magazine
1. Bushfire Research Project update – pp 5-7

2020 Summer magazine
1. Reports from the field – pp 11-13

2020 Spring magazine
1. Interview with Nic Carlile – survey site owner at Budgong – pp 6-10
2. Bendalong case study – pp 11-12

2020 Winter magazine
1. Interview with Fiona Stewart – survey site owner at Yatte Yattah - pp 9-13
2. West Braidwood and Bawley Point case studies – pp 14-18

Shoalhaven fire intensity map showing survey sites