Fuel Reduction Burning

To: "'Giles Mulholland'" <>, <>
Subject: Fuel Reduction Burning
From: "Colin Driscoll" <>
Date: Tue, 5 Apr 2005 08:02:01 +1000
Hi Giles
The first question that comes to my mind is 'What is the natural ecosystem for the grassland area?' If left alone it would develop forest then surely that is the natural ecosystem unless historically there were other forces (such as large numbers of grazing animals) that would have maintained a grassland.
Here in NSW (Australia) frequent fire (certainly at the frequency you are describing) is a declared threatening process and for good reason. While there are fire-tolerant plants there are also plants that are killed by fire and if these species cannot progress through complete life cycles and establish viable population sizes between fire they can gradually become extinct in areas where fire is too frequent.
Colin Driscoll

Colin Driscoll
Environmental Biologist
PO Box 1047
Toronto NSW 2283
Ph/fax +61 2 49598016
Mob 0438 773029
PhD Candidate
The ecology of reproduction and propagation in rare plants.
Plant Sciences Group
School of Environmental and Life Sciences
University of Newcastle

From: [ On Behalf Of Giles Mulholland
Sent: Tuesday, 5 April 2005 5:55 AM
To: 'Syd Curtis';
Subject: RE: [BIRDING-AUS] Fuel Reduction Burning

Hi all from here in South Africa
I have been reading this thread with interest, since I have a farm in Mpumalanga (what used to be called the eastern Transvaal) here in South Africa.
We have to burn our grasslands regularly, for two reasons.  I am almost surrounded by commercial plantations (Blue Gum on one side, conifers on another two).  To minimise the build-up of fuel, the local foresters burn half of the grassland each year (alternating the areas) - with my permission and co-operation of course!.  This obviously saves me a lot of effort, but personally it would be better for me to burn every third year as this seems to be optimal for the grass species I have and especially the several thousand protea trees in the grassland.
If we don't burn regularly, the grassland vanishes within about 10 years, over-run by (indigenous) trees and bushy shrubs.  Here, fire plays a key role in maintaining the "natural ecosystems" - without it, what were (for the last few centuries anyway) extensive grasslands are in many areas becoming dense bush, and our grassland species (including birds) are becoming very restricted.
Doesn't fire also play a key role on maintaining ecosystems in Australia?
Giles Mulholland
Phone: +27 (13) 733-3177
Fax: +27 (13) 733-3177
Cell: +27 (83) 411-2424
Postal: P.O. Box 162 Schagen, 1207, South Africa

-----Original Message-----
From: [ On Behalf Of Syd Curtis
Sent: Monday 04 April 2005 08:35
Subject: [BIRDING-AUS] Fuel Reduction Burning

Some general thoughts on fuel reduction burning:

For habitats where such action is possible:

1.  fire is eventually inevitable, if not of human origin, then from lightning strikes;

2.  if  there has been a major build-up of fuel and weather conditions are severe enough there will be complete devastation;

3.  prior to European settlement a fire-devastated area could be recolonised by  fauna from surrounding unburnt areas;

4. an area surrounded by developed land is unlikely to be naturally recolonised by native fauna, and fuel reduction burning may be a lesser evil than an eventual totally devastating wildfire.

In some areas, it may be possible to carry out fuel reduction burning under circumstances where only some parts of an area are burnt.  The obvious exception is where there is already such a large build-up of fuel that any fire once started may become catastrophic.

Aerial ignition can be useful by starting many small fires that do not build up to catastrophic proportions before each encounters already burnt terrain.

Weather conditions have a major bearing on the success of fuel reduction burning; weather forecasting is not yet an exact science.

Syd Curtis in Brisbane

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