Fuel Reduction Burning

To: Chris Sanderson <>, Colin Driscoll <>
Subject: Fuel Reduction Burning
From: John Gamblin <>
Date: Sat, 9 Apr 2005 09:52:51 +1000 (EST)
Dear Chris, Colin and Giles,
RE: Portland fires.
My beef is NOT with burning parsay but when an alledged controlled burn becomes and out of control burn the damage that can be done is more then likely huge. YES Oz has had wildfires in her past BUT the frequency rate back before the european invasion was miles below what we are doing to this beaut land nowadays.
I've been studying fire regimes world wide and this sytem of natural fuel reduction in Australia for many many years now. Thee availability of localised to the fire natural water sources ... be they subterreanian or natural above ground is often as NOT hardly ever taken into account.
Chris re: your last line, then yes absolutely one hundred per cent agree.
John A. Gamblin ....... on the move like Vic.
Chris Sanderson <> wrote:
Hi all,

It's not really as simple as completely excluding fire, or burning every year. In Australia our plants and animals have evolved with fire since the last climate shift made us an arid climate in the central band of the country. To completely exclude fire would destroy many different habitats across the country, not just through the huge fires that could rage out of control once the fuel load was high enough, but from the natural succession that would take place as a
result if the areas didn't burn. Many of our plant communities require burning every 10-15 years to remain healthy and diverse (Mulga stands to name one). More or less frequent fires can destroy those communities either through death or natural succession. In areas with a history of fire-dependence (i.e. dry schlerophyll, acacia scrub), fire ecologists now recommend that any Australian government identify key habitats that need to be preserved, and use a mosaic patch burning system that allows small areas to be cycled over a 5-25 year burning
program. This so far seems to preserve the most biodiversity and allows many different habitat types to be preserved. This all changes in rainforest (which should never be burnt unless you want to remove the rainforest) and urban areas, where safety often takes higher precedence than conservation.

(NB: this only applies to fire induced climax communities, any habitat that doesn't require fire to maintain its plant structure should never be burnt).

As a rough guide, to preserve the diversity of a desert area, it should burn every 50 years (on a natural cycle, it really shouldn't need human induced fires), a semi arid area should burn every 15-25 years, a dry woodland every 5-10, and grasslands every 2 to 5 years.

Yearly burning doesn't even help a grassland much. The goal is to maintain the current plant communities present, rather than facilitate a change in the habitat. Obviously the actuality of both lightning strikes and traditional aboriginal burning practices are a little more complex than this, which is why the mosaic patch burning at different ages is recommended.

As far as endangered plants and animals are concerned, a properly managed mosaic burn should leave many refuges for these to recolonise from, and a proper cold burn should allow many animals to escape the fire (in a perfect world mind you). For really small remnant patches, there's no hard and fast rules because of lack of refuges, and the inability to patch burn. You either burn and kill the plants and animals, or don't burn, and have their habitat disappear. The question here shouldn't be "should we burn", it should be "how can
we make it ecologically sustainable".
Chris - Broome
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