Human population and climate changes directly affect fire regimes and associated risks. Risk management now emphasises assessment, measurement and mitigation of risks to a wide range of values, including property and ecosystem services, water, air quality, indigenous values and biodiversity.
This project focused on four contrasting regions across Australia – the Sydney Basin, the Australian Capital Territory, South West Tasmania and Central Australia. A core tool was the FIRESCAPE landscape/fire regime simulation model. It was led by Professor Ross Bradstock at the University of Wollongong, supported by Dr Geoff Cary and Dr Malcolm Gill at ANU.
The modelling was supported by two major strands of on-ground investigation aimed at measuring the responses of biodiversity to different fire regimes and the sensitivity of fire behaviour to vegetation, fuel moisture, landscape characteristics and fire suppression and prevention activities. Outcomes from the research have enhanced and validated key functions in FIRESCAPE allowing explicit quantification of risks posed by particular fire regimes.
Major findings have included an extensive evaluation of the effectiveness of prescribed burning strategies in the World Heritage listed button grass in Tasmania. This modelled the effects of climate change on the fire impacts on fire sensitive species and informed the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service Management Plan.
Work in Central Australia has included studies of the impacts of fire regimes on sensitive flora and fauna using various bio-indicators. Adam Leavesley’s PhD work out of the Australian National University was on the impact of fire on the birds of Central Australia. This better informs burning practices in Central Australia.
Other postgraduate work from ANU students included Lyndsey Vivian’s ACT-based work on how fire controls where different types of sprouting and seeding plants live. Fire impacts on the rainforest regions of the Sydney Basin were the focus of a PhD study by Carola Kuramotto de Bednarik. Both aim to inform prescribed burning plans.
Phil Zylstra, (UNSW/ADFA) was based in the high country of New South Wales and looked at the flammability of the forest - how a fire burns in the bush and why some plants thrive and other plants die after a fire. This work has assisted the New South Wales Parks and Wildlife Service in their scheduling of prescribed burning. Rowena Morris, University of Adelaide, completed PhD her thesis on how prescribed burning impacted upon sediment traps in the waterways of the Adelaide Hills.