Culburra Beach Sand Layers Following Wildfires

July 02, 2022


Ash in Sand 2

Photographer: John Lupton 
Summary Author: John Lupton

The photo above was taken two and a half years after major wildfires on the east coast of Australia (late 2019 through to early 2020) burned approximately 65,600 sq. miles (70,000 sq. km.). It’s estimated that over a billion mammals, reptiles and birds were killed. The south coast of New South Wales and eastern coast of Victoria were particularly hit hard. During that time, rivers in the region had a floating layer of blackened leaves and ash that washed down to the sea. From personal experience, it was nigh impossible to swim or see the bottom in normally crystal-clear waters. 

The Shoalhaven River flushed down significant sums of ash to the sea. On the photo, captured at Culburra Beach in New South Wales, note the clear line of ash deposit, between sand layers, that were laid down during this wildfire episode. Erosion, because of the denuded landscape and also from extreme surf conditions as a result of an east coast low pressure systems, removed over 80% of the beach’s sand, exposing these layers. The upper layer relates to the 2019~2020 wildfire, while the lower relates to a lesser fire season in February 2017. These sand cliffs, though revealing very recent wildfire history nonetheless demonstrate the impact of the fires on the local environment and are a pointer to their lasting impact for years to come. Photo taken on April 4, 2022.


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