Reframing wildfire simulations for understanding complex human-landscape interactions in cross-cultural contexts: A case study from northern Australia

Rohan Fisher, Scott Heckbert, Stephen Garnett

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Abstract

An increase in the frequency of severe fire events, as well as a growing interest in wildfire mitigation strategies, has created a demand for skilled managers of landscape fire and a better community understanding of fire behaviour. While on-ground experience is essential, there is potential to substantially enhance training and community engagement with explanatory simulations. Through this work, we explore landscape fire behaviour as a complex system where understanding key behaviour characteristics is often more important and achievable than prediction. It is argued that this approach has particular value in Northern Australia, where fires burn across vast and sparsely inhabited landscapes that are largely under Indigenous ownership. Land and fire management in such complex cross-cultural contexts requires combining traditional and local knowledge with science and technology to achieve the best outcomes. We describe the workings of the model, a stochastic cellular automata fire behaviour simulation, developed through a participatory modelling approach for Northern Australia; the outputs generated; and a range of operational applications. We found that simulation assisted training and engagement through the development of an understanding of fire dynamics through visualisation, underpinned by landscape data sets, and engaging a culturally diverse set of land managers in discussions of fire management. We conclude that there is scope for a broader use of explanatory fire simulations to support development of shared understandings of fire management objectives.

Original languageEnglish
Article number46
JournalFire
Volume4
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021

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