A controlled burn of more than 5ha of coastal bush near Jewells aims to restore biodiversity by activating dormant seeds of native plant species.

Known as an ecological burn, the action by Lake Macquarie City Council and NSW Fire and Rescue on Thursday was planned for two years, with detailed investigations revealing the need for fire to germinate native seeds that may have laid dormant for decades.

Senior Natural Assets Officer Dominic Edmonds surveys the fire ground at Jewells.

Manager Environmental Systems Karen Partington explained that coastal tea trees had been planted extensively following sand mining in the area in the 1970s, but the species dominated to such an extent that other trees and plants didn’t have a chance to grow.

It got to a point where we really needed fire to stimulate the seed bank of native plants historically found in the area,” she said.

It’s quite amazing, but some of these seeds can lie dormant for decades underground, especially in dry, sandy soil.”

Fire is like a key to opening up this ecological mystery box – you never know what you might find coming up. Often, there are plants that haven’t been present for a lifetime, and in some instances new species are discovered.”

Council crews have spent two years preparing the site for the burn, removing upper limbs of some coastal tea trees to create more ground fuel for the fire.

We expect some of the seeds to be deep beneath the soil, so they need a moderate intensity ground fire to help them germinate,” Ms Partington said.

Council Natural Assets Officers will return to the site regularly after the burn to monitor regrowth progress.

Senior Natural Assets Officer Dominic Edmonds said insect and invertebrate populations would reach a peak at the site 2-3 years post fire as the new plants grew.

That in turn boosts the fauna that feed on them,” he said.

So, we’d expect an abundance of fauna to benefit from the burn for many years to come.”

Lake Macquarie Mayor Cr Kay Fraser said protecting and celebrating the city’s unique landscapes helped create a more liveable place for everyone.

We want to keep working with the community to take care of our environment,” Cr Fraser said.

Fire sweeps across the ground at Jewells. The aim is to activate subterranean native seed banks lying dormant for decades.