The influence of prescribed fire on the extent of wildfire in savanna landscapes of western Arnhem Land, Australia

Owen Price, Jeremy Russell-Smith, Felicity Watt

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Fire regimes in many north Australian savanna regions are today characterised by frequent wildfires occurring in the latter part of the 7-month dry season. A fire management program instigated from 2005 over 24000km2 of biodiversity-rich Western Arnhem Land aims to reduce the area and severity of late dry-season fires, and associated greenhouse gas emissions, through targeted early dry-season prescribed burning. This study used fire history mapping derived mostly from Landsat imagery over the period 19902009 and statistical modelling to quantify the mitigation of late dry-season wildfire through prescribed burning. From 2005, there has been a reduction in mean annual total proportion burnt (from 38 to 30%), and particularly of late dry-season fires (from 29 to 12.5%). The slope of the relationship between the proportion of early-season prescribed fire and subsequent late dry-season wildfire was ?1. This means that imposing prescribed early dry-season burning can substantially reduce late dry-season fire area, by direct one-to-one replacement. There is some evidence that the spatially strategic program has achieved even better mitigation than this. The observed reduction in late dry-season fire without concomitant increase in overall area burnt has important ecological and greenhouse gas emissions implications. This efficient mitigation of wildfire contrasts markedly with observations reported from temperate fire-prone forested systems.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)297-305
    Number of pages9
    JournalInternational Journal of Wildland Fire
    Volume21
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2012

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