Fire on a tropical floodplain: A fine-scale fire history of coastal floodplains in the Northern Territory, Australia

Robin Leppitt, Jay Evans, Luke Einoder, Peter M. Kyne, John Woinarski, Stephen Garnett

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Abstract

Background: The coastal floodplains of northern Australia are fire-prone, but the impact of fire on floodplain biota is not well understood. 

Aims: In this study, we sought to characterise the fire history of six adjacent floodplains in coastal Northern Territory, Australia. 

Methods: We built a fine-scale 31-year fire history (1988-2018) to compare fire regimes on floodplains across land tenures and floodplain fire regimes with the surrounding savanna fire regime, determine the extent to which current fire regimes are meeting existing ecological fire thresholds, and investigate the relationship between rainfall totals and the extent of burning. 

Key results: Floodplains in conservation reserves burnt more frequently than those on pastoral lands, and savannas burnt more often than floodplains. Current floodplain fire regimes comfortably meet existing ecological fire thresholds. The proportion of floodplain burning is inversely proportional to the amount of rain in the previous wet season. 

Conclusions: Floodplain fire regimes vary markedly between land-use types, and floodplain fire regimes differ to those of savannas. The current management thresholds for floodplain fire regimes would benefit from further evidence of conservation outcomes.

Implications: For more effective floodplain fire management, research is needed to generate floodplain-specific thresholds that best conserve their considerable conservation value.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1200-1211
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Wildland Fire
Volume32
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2023

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