Territory Stories

Desert fire : fire and regional land management in the arid landscapes of Australia



Desert fire : fire and regional land management in the arid landscapes of Australia

Other title

edited by GP Edwards and GE Allan


Edwards, Glenn P; Allan, G. E.


E-Publications; E-Books; PublicationNT; DKCRC Report 37




Date:2009; Made available via the Publications (Legal Deposit) Act 2004 (NT).

Table of contents

Executive summary -- 1. Introduction and overview of Desert Fire -- 2. Managing fire in the southern Tanami Desert -- 3. Aboriginal burning issues in the southern Tanami: towards understanding tradition-based fire knowledge in a contemporary context -- 4. Pastoralists’ perspectives on the costs of widespread fires in the pastoral lands of the southern Northern Territory region of central Australia, 2000–02 -- 5. A review of fire management on central Australian conservation reserves: towards best practice -- 6. The fire history of Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve 1984–2005.




Fire Management -- Australia, Central

Publisher name

Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre

Place of publication

Alice Springs


DKCRC Report 37


iii, 338 p. : col. ill. ; 30 cm.

File type



1741581125; 1741581109





Copyright owner

Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre



Parent handle


Citation address


Page content

Desert Knowledge CRC 22Desert Fire: f i re and regional land management in the ar id landscapes of Austral ia Ch : A review of fire management on central Australian conservation reserves: towards best practice pp. 20908 forecasting. Furthermore, large rain events have occurred more frequently at more localised scales. This all means that managers need to be responsive to large rain events when they happen, rather than assuming they will follow an approximate 25-year cycle. Threshold values of rainfall over various time periods are a useful way of alerting managers to dramatically changing fuelscapes. These will vary with respect to average rainfall: mean annual rainfall is 280 mm in Alice Springs compared with 420 mm in Tennant Creek. Specifying precise thresholds is not possible, but the following may be a useful guide. Around Alice Springs, rains exceeding 400 mm over a six-month summer period and 500600 mm over a 12-month period should cause managers to take special note of changing fuel conditions and act accordingly. Of course, good managers should always be visually assessing fuel loads, wherever they go. ..2 Fuel types and patterns of fuel accumulation The amount of fine fuel (<6 mm diameter) on or near the ground is a critical influence on whether an ignition results in a spreading fire. The spatial continuity of fine fuels is also critical in determining whether fire will carry (spread) through an area. Spatial continuity is the connectedness of fuel across an area or, more specifically, the sizes of the gaps between fuels. Following a fire, a site will accumulate fuel as a result of rainfall and the associated growth of plants. Different fuel types accumulate and diminish differently over time; therefore it is important for rangers to consciously distinguish the main fuel types. These can be broadly divided into five categories, listed here in order of regional importance: spinifex native grasses* (excluding spinifex) and other native herbs introduced perennial grasses litter from trees and shrubs foliage and fine branches of shrubs (including semi-woody sub-shrubs). * note that grasses are a sub-category of herbs (non-woody plants). Most vegetation types contain various fuel types, although some vegetation types are dominated by a particular fuel type. For example: Spinifex areas are sometimes dominated by just spinifex but often have a mixture of fuel types. Grasslands on cracking clays (e.g. Mitchell Grass Downs/Barkly Tableland) are typically dominated by non-spinifex native grasses and other herbs. Areas of dense buffel grass often contain fine fuels of predominantly buffel grass. ..2. Spinifex fuel In most years spinifex is the major component of ground fuels in many parts of the landscape. The inherent flammability of spinifex, and its ability to accumulate fine fuel, lead to inevitable and periodic wildfires. In fact, spinifex is an important driver of central Australian fire regimes. It is largely because spinifex vegetation is so common and widespread that fire is such a feature of the central Australian environment. The relatively intense fires in spinifex vegetation also increase the incidence of fire in adjacent non-spinifex vegetation by generating enough heat to carry fire through sparser or less flammable fuels or by initiating crown fires through shrubs and low woodlands. Therefore, a major focus of fire management is prescribed burning in spinifex. It is beneficial to understand why spinifex fuels are different from other grasses. As with most grasses, all the stems and leaves are fine fuel. However, spinifex has a distinct hummock shape which allows dead leaves to be retained in an elevated arrangement, and allows an ample supply of air (oxygen) 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

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