burning for biodiversity or burning the biodiversity

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Titleburning for biodiversity or burning the biodiversity
Publication TypeConference Paper
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Prescribed burning is a common and valuable management tool for forest practitioners, but both
frequent burning and the exclusion of fire may result in significant changes in vegetation communities.
As a result, there has been considerable debate regarding the costs and benefits of prescribed burning
for biodiversity with little resolution. In 1986, Forests NSW (formerly the Forestry Commission of
NSW) established a long term study in the Eden region in south-eastern Australia in an attempt to
record medium to long term ecological changes in response to three prescribed burning regimes (fire
exclusion, routine burning and frequent burning) in logged and unlogged forests. Here we present
some of the results from this study and use these to highlight issues for biodiversity conservation in
fire management planning. Anthropogenic burning regimes resulted in changes to plant species
diversity within the study area but these changes were minor and less than the magnitude predicted
from other studies. The major change occurring within the study appeared to be a natural response of
the vegetation to the time since the last wildfire and this occurred independently of the imposed
management regime. These results suggest that, while some prescribed burning regimes have minimal
direct adverse impacts, they also fail to stimulate the recruitment of many plant species and thus may
have longer term indirect impacts. In developing fire management plans, consideration should also be
given to the intensity, seasonality and frequency of the burns because these factors will affect the conservation of biodiversity