In 2015, my parents’ bush block was impacted by the Scotsburn fires. The shed, cars and caravans were either destroyed or burnt out. In some areas, it felt like there were no signs of life. I tried to photograph how the area was recovering but I was flying blind. At the time, I was overwhelmed by all of the information about about how fire impacts on ecosystems. I resigned myself to just photograph what I could and make sense of it later.
This book has helped me make sense of it. Forest Phoenix is a short book that focuses on thearea of montane ash forest that was impacted by the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires. Through short essays and captioned photos, the authors share specific examples of how the 2009 fire impacted on the ecosystem. The unique approach allowed me to learn and understand more about the ecological recovery that takes place post fire.
How is it structured?
The book is divided into four chapters. The first chapter provides a background to the Black Saturday bushfires. The second and third chapters cover how both the plants and animals respond to the fires. The final chapter asks whether this particular forest will ever fully recover.
Each chapter has an introductory essay that takes up 4-5 pages; the exception being the last chapter at 7 pages. The remaining pages feature photos with caption that expand on the information in the original essay. In some cases, you get two images per page. With others, the image takes up the whole page.
You don’t get as much information as you would in similarly priced books, but this structure allowed me to learn so much more. This is because I was able to compare the visuals with what I had photographed at my parents bush block.
It is beginner friendly
One of the issues I faced with other books about Australian bushfires was that they seemed to target an academic audience. I’ve studied at uni, albeit in a different field, but I still struggle to read such books.
The language was very beginner-friendly and didn’t assume that the readers had existing knowledge. An example is a caption mentioning that a cuckoo is birds that lay their eggs in other birds’ nests. There were times where technical words were used, such as the different plant survival strategies. These were explained satisfactorily, however it was the images that allow me to really visualize them. The book felt like multiple puzzle pieces were coming together at the same time.
Do I recommend it?
Yes. It is very beginner friendly and helps readers understand the ecological response to bushfires. It allowed me to understand why the plants and animals at my parents bush block were responding in a certain way. It’s something I’ll be referring to multiple times.
It is no longer available in print format. I’d recommend either purchasing a digital copy or tracking down a second-hand one if you have a special interest in either mountain ash forests or bushfires. For most readers, I’d recommend borrowing the book from your local library.