Effectiveness of prescribed burning in SE Australia


The Journal of Biogeography has recently published an article by Australian researchers that explores biogeographical patterns in the effectiveness of prescribed burning across south-eastern Australia over a 25 year period. The researchers quantified leverage (the reduction in unplanned area burnt resulting from recent previous area burnt) in each bioregion from fire records from 1975–2009, controlling for variation in annual weather. They also identified potential drivers of variation in leverage by relating the bioregional leverage values to measures of fuel type and growth, climate, and weather extremes. Leverage was inferred in four bioregions while in the other 26 bioregions no leverage was detected or prescribed fire had the opposite effect (fire-follows-fire). The analysis of leverage shows that the effectiveness of prescribed fire varies regionally in predictable ways, which means that fuel management strategies applied in one region are not necessarily applicable in another. In most bioregions prescribed burning is likely to have very little effect on subsequent extent of unplanned fire, and even in regions where leverage occurs, large areas of treatment are required to substantially reduce the area burned by unplanned fire. The paper can be downloaded here (or e-mail jennie.fluin@sa.gov.au for a copy).