Efficacy of permanent firebreaks and aerial prescribed burning in western Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia

Owen Price, A EDWARDS, Jeremy Russell-Smith

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    We investigated the efficacy of firebreaks in the prevention of wildfires in the Arnhem Land Plateau, a vast, rugged and sparsely populated region with high biodiversity value and frequent wildfires. A total of 623 events where a fire met a permanent firebreak (cliffs, stream order, tracks and roads) in different fire seasons were compiled. Cliffs were more effective than streams at stopping fires, which were more effective than roads. Larger streams were more effective than small ones. The largest streams stop 75% of early dry season fires, but there are no firebreak types with more than 50% likelihood of stopping a late dry season fire. Geographic Information System (GIS) surfaces of the relative density of the three firebreak features in the landscape were randomly sampled and compared with the total number of fires and late dry season fires using generalised linear modelling. Several of the density variables were weakly but significantly related to fire frequency, and it appears that late dry season fires are influenced by features at a larger scale (16-km radius) than total fires (4 km). The Aerial Prescribed Burning program for 2004 was studied to identify how effective it was at stopping subsequent wildfires by dividing ignition lines into 137 5-km sections. Only 20% of sections achieved a 100% burn and where gaps occurred, a subsequent fire was 88% likely to penetrate the line. Firebreaks are not certain instruments for fire management in this area. � IAWF 2007.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)295-305
    Number of pages11
    JournalInternational Journal of Wildland Fire
    Volume16
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2007

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