LOOK around and you can still see the scars left on box ironbark forest from the Millennium Drought, ecologist Chris Tzaros says a decade after rains finally broke the dry.
He would know better than most, having just updated his 2005 book Wildlife of the Box-Ironbark Country, which has been released by Australia's chief science agency's CSIRO Publishing.
Chris published the first version of the wildlife guide in the early years of the Millennium Drought, before the full damage had been done.
"It went for 12 or 13 years and was one of the most catastrophic droughts Australia has ever seen," he said.
"Because the box ironbark forests were so dry anyway, they got hammered really heavily."
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Huge changes were happening even when the first edition of the book was published but the full scale of the damage became clear in 2009 when the drought finally ended.
"You had shrub die-back, tree decline, desiccation of all the leaf litter on the ground," Chris said.
Seed and insect eating birds lacked food and lost so many opportunities to breed that many scientists working in box ironbark forests say the drought ushered in wholesale population collapses.
Frog populations were hit hard too, but Chris said there were losses across all animal groups.
That said, the second edition of the book has not shrunk - and not just because good rain seasons in the last decade have helped stem some of the more permanent effects.
The book includes 19 extra species.
Some were probably hiding in box ironbark regions the whole time.
A snake species called the yellow-faced whip snake has been discovered in the state's northeast.
Others appear to have moved into the forests from habitats hit hard by bushfires in recent years.
"There's birds like scarlet honeyeaters which have started to turn up on a regular enough basis to be considered a feature of box ironbark wildlife," Chris said.
Those birds are usually found in wetter coastal forests on the east coast but they appear to be moving west in search of food after recent summers of catastrophic bushfires.
More still have been added because they are increasingly common in the cities close to the box ironbark forests, including rainbow lorikeets.
Some changes have brought new conservation challenges. Rainbow lorikeets can act aggressively towards smaller native birds in the search for food, for example.
Problems with inappropriate fire management regimes have also appeared, Chris says.
Victorian fuel reduction targets are often ill-suited to box ironbarks and destroy food sources for the most vulnerable small animals prowling the forest floor, he says.
Drought and climate change will keep shaping the box ironbark forests Chris says.
Still, the book is first and foremost a guide to the forests we have.
"The box ironbark is still a unique environment found nowhere else but northern Victoria and into New South Wales," Chris said.
"Bendigo's been described as a city in a forest. People need to realise that what they are living amongst is so significant."
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