Multi-scale patterns in Ecological Processes and Fire Regime Impacts

Most studies of impacts of fire on ecological processes have dealt largely with single fire events, examining fire at localised scales without reference to the variability of fire in the landscape. The lack of an appropriate landscape context for fire management may lead to management decisions that are contrary to the intent of ecologically sustainable fire regimes.

The patterning observed after a single fire event is often a consequence of the effects of previous fires, yet the concept of dynamic models that take into account impacts of preceding fires is often missing. Understanding the consequences of 'ecological memory' on local and landscape patterns, is key to predicting the likely effects of future prescribed burning regimes.

This project was led by Dr Pauline Grierson at the University of Western Australia, with Dr Matthias Boer. Part of the study looked at 50 years of active fire management in south-west Western Australia. It sought to measure to what extent the annual area burnt by prescribed fire reduced the annual incidence and extent of unplanned fires. A key finding was that prescribed burning for reduce fuels ceased to have significant effects on annual wildfire numbers after six years. Meanwhile, the length of time a site remained unburnt by wildfire had doubled since the early 1960s to about eight to nine years by the early 2000s.

The PhD work of Rohan Sadler developed mathematical and modelling approaches to quantifying the impact of ecosystem events (such as fire, flood, drought) on semi-arid grasslands in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

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