Bushfires 'down under': patterns and implications of contemporary Australian landscape burning

Classify & Cross-ref
Ecology and Biodiversity
Fire Management
TitleBushfires 'down under': patterns and implications of contemporary Australian landscape burning
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsRussell-Smith, J, Yates, CP, Whitehead, PJ, Smith, R, Craig, R, Allan, GE, Thackway, R, Frakes, I, Cridland, S, Meyer, CP(Mick), A. Gill, M
JournalInternational Journal of Wildland Fire
Date Published2007
AbstractAustralia is among the most fire-prone of continents. While national fire management policy is focused on irregular and comparatively smaller fires in densely settled southern Australia, this comprehensive assessment of continental-scale fire patterning (1997–2005) derived from ~1 km2 Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) imagery shows that fire activity occurs predominantly in the savanna landscapes of monsoonal northern Australia. Statistical models that relate the distribution of large fires to a variety of biophysical variables show that, at the continental scale, rainfall seasonality substantially explains fire patterning. Modelling results, together with data concerning seasonal lightning incidence, implicate the importance of anthropogenic ignition sources, especially in the northern wet–dry tropics and arid Australia, for a substantial component of recurrent fire extent. Contemporary patterns differ markedly from those under Aboriginal occupancy, are causing significant impacts on biodiversity, and, under current patterns of human population distribution, land use, national policy and climate change scenarios, are likely to prevail, if not intensify, for decades to come. Implications of greenhouse gas emissions from savanna burning, especially seasonal emissions of CO2, are poorly understood and contribute to important underestimation of the significance of savanna emissions both in Australian and probably in international greenhouse gas inventories. A significant challenge for Australia is to address annual fire extent in fire-prone Australian savannas.
Short TitleInt. J. Wildland Fire
Refereed DesignationRefereed