Environmental and economical impact of fire on bio-diversity in the Southern Hemishpere

  • Grant Peter Hamon

    Student thesis: Other thesis - CDU


    This dissertation considers the major aspects of biomass burning globally but particularly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a focus on South East Asia and Australia. Recent research indicates that biomass burning is much more extensive and wide spread than previously thought. It is believed that as much as 90% of biomass burning is human initiated and that such burning is increasing with time. Hence biomass burning may be an important driver forglobal atmospheric and climatic change.

    Human beings have historically burnt for many reasons, for example cultural, land clearance, agriculture and improving pasture. The economies of many nations and the incomes of their people depend on the ability to grow food, for survival or to sell and to raise cattle, other animals and crops. This raises issues of ongoing sustainability, the impact on limited and irreplaceable natural resources, land degradation, deforestation and erosion.

    Many people are aware of the destruction of the South American rainforests by fire and the consequential global and environmental effects. However, it is not as well known that the 1997/98 devastating fires in Indonesia, particularly Kalimantan and Irian Jaya cost in terms of human health $US 4.4 billion, more than the total cost of the clean up of the Exxon Valdez disaster and the Bhopal gas disaster combined. This cost does not include the environmental damage, which is hard to quantify and the long-term damage to agricultural land and the consequential ongoing economic effects.

    There is an international responsibility to protect the earth's rich bio-diversity and its unique environmental assets not to mention the responsibility to future generations. However, there are many wide-ranging and varied issues, such as cultural norms and politics, which impact on the human ability to reduce the damage to our environment and develop sustainable land management practices. Scientific research and knowledge in regard to fire effects on the environment is limited and is not reaching or being embraced by land managers in many societies.

    This dissertation considers these issues, compares fire practices in developed and lesser- developed countries, the resultant impact of those practices and their benefits or negative consequences.

    Grant Hamon and Iain Rae (authors)

    Date of AwardJul 1999
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMurray Keith Redman (Supervisor)

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