Fire is an important part of the environment of the Great Eastern Ranges. Across Australia and within the GER corridor, there have been significant changes to fire regimes, compared with pre-European times. Altered fire regimes can have significant impacts on native plants, animals and entire ecosystems, such as the fire-sensitive Gondwana rainforests in northern NSW and south-eastern Queensland.
In turn, the way in which private and public landholders manage fire on their properties can have a significant effect on local biodiversity. Fire management is a delicate balancing act. On one hand, fire is important in regenerating many species of native plants and is a vital component of the Australian landscape. On the other hand, fire can also seriously damage sensitive ecosystems that require long periods without disturbance to maintain their species composition and internal functions. Essentially, the effects of fire management on native vegetation depend on where, when and how fire is applied.
Just as importantly, fire can seriously damage or threaten human lives, domestic stock, homes and infrastructure. As such, fire management needs to be carefully considered and planned in any effort to protect, manage or link natural areas in the Australian environment. Plans for long term fire management should take into account appropriate fire regimes to maintain habitat and native species, whilst also managing fuel levels and minimizing the risk to surrounding lives, property and assets. Good fire management plans for private land should also take into account the potential for these lands to contribute to connectivity and provide a buffer for neighbouring areas of native vegetation on public land.
Working with landholders to manage fire in the GER
An important component of GER’s work with fire management involves connecting Aboriginal elders and knowledge-holders with other land managers and the broader community, in order to apply Traditional Ecological Knowledge about fire and land management. In the Kosciuszko2Coast regional partnership area, the ‘Traditional Land Management Practices on the Monaro’ project is working with Rod Mason, Ngarigo elder and Traditional Land Management Facilitator to document, share and trial traditional burning and environmental management practices in southern NSW.
Traditional burning techniques use an important strategy called mosaic burning, in which fire is managed to create a mixture of burnt and unburnt patches within a site. This ensures that plant and animal populations are left with some areas of habitat, from which they can later recolonise burnt areas. In addition, after mosaic burning has occurred in an area, it will contain plants at a range of different life stages, which mimics the effects of a natural fire and allows the vegetation community to regenerate and develop over time.
Where to get further advice
Landholders and land managers planning to conduct burns on private property should consult their state’s rural fire service:
- Queensland Rural Fire Service
- NSW Rural Fire Service
- ACT Rural Fire Service
- Victorian Country Fire Authority
One of GER’s partner organisations, the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, runs the Hotspots Fire Project, which provides information, resources and training to landholders and land managers about fire management for biodiversity conservation.