How do plants and animals recover from bushfire?

Focus statement

Students learn about and describe adaptations that enable the natural environment to recover from bushfire over time.

Key message

Although bushfires can be destructive, native plants have adaptations that enable them to recover over time. Animal populations can also rebuild over time.


Have students view an image of a forest burned by a bushfire. Acknowledge that people feel a connection to nature and are affected when they see that bushfire has had a destructive effect on an area.

Ask students to write and draw a brief response to the statement: Forests are destroyed by bushfire.

After students share their responses, introduce them to the science of how forests respond to and recover from bushfires, using:

  1. photographs and audio in the article Forest Phoenix shows life sprouting from the ashes
  2. the video Forest Phoenix: how a great forest recovers after wildfire, in which scientists describe ways that Victorian forests recovered after the 2009 bushfires.

For years 7–8; Provide students with examples of how plants regenerate after fire. Discuss the scientific terms: ′epicormic buds′, ′lignotuber′ and ′seed germination′. Describe changes as short-term or long-term changes.

Use the following resources.

  1. The effects of fire on Victorian bushland environments

Ask students to create their own photo-story entitled ′How plants and animals recover after bushfire′, which describes how plants have adapted to bushfires.

For years 9–10: Print the following articles and discuss the Jervis Bay Fire Experiment′s aim, methodology and findings to date.

  1. ′Fire, science and biodiversity at Jervis Bay′
  2. Jervis Bay fire response study′

Extension activity for years 9–10: Support and guide students in designing their own scientific investigations into the effect of sunlight on seedling growth. Students need to devise ways to modify the amount of sunlight received by a seedling, and relate their findings to the effect a bushfire has on seedling germination.

Alternatively use the NDLRN digital curriculum resource Plant Lab, (Identifier: L11712). FUSE users can access this resource by searching in FUSE for L11712. Other users can find it in their own educational portal (for example Scootle, TaLe, the Learning Place, the Student Freeway digital curriculum resource search or the DET portal). Go to the National Digital Learning Resources Network website for more information about access. 


Plant Lab, NDRLN ID L11712.