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 2Desert 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 Matthews (2005) recognised that linear breaks can make a positive contribution to diversity of post-fire ages and promoted the importance of using fire proactively, for diversifying post-fire vegetation age in some habitats. However, Matthews (2005) stated that patch burning is not necessarily effective in stopping wildfires and stresses a risk of adverse effects from potentially increased fire frequency within patches. Rather, he advocated burning larger blocks delineated by the strategic linear breaks, and argued that this will have a greater benefit for limiting the spread and intensity of potential wildfires. This approach had not yet been implemented at FGNP when the document was written, due to the focus on implementing the strategic linear breaks. As a result of minimal small patch or big patch burning, areas between breaks can develop high fuel loads with an associated risk of whole blocks burning intensely in a single wildfire. Currently best practice is regarded as a combination of strategic breaks to divide large areas into management blocks and patch burning in fire-tolerant spinifex vegetation within the blocks. Other fire breaks must be burnt to protect infrastructure, cultural sites and biodiversity assets. Some patch burning can also be done in non-spinifex vegetation to promote fresh growth for animal feed. These elements are expanded on in section 5. However, the reality is that resources, including experienced personnel and resources for training, may be too limited to implement these strategies, as lamented by Matthews (2005) with respect to FGNP. Steps that can be taken to improve efficiency within current resource allocations are presented in section 5.6. .. Comparison with interstate practices For comparative purposes, we reviewed recent fire management guidelines for Queensland (Melzer & Clarke 2003) and NSW parks (NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service 2002). Interstate parks and wildlife services typically have much stricter requirements on planning, approval and reporting of fire management. This can make fire management less flexible and more expensive than in central Australia. Northern Territory rangers enjoy considerable freedom in developing and applying fire management programs. Planning must still consider the consequences of fires escaping, but in general it is less likely that escaped fire will endanger lives or damage property. Many park agencies employ specialised staff for certain parts of their management which they consider beyond the expertise of rangers. For example, Kakadu National Park has specialised fire, weeds and feral management staff. The NSW and SA agencies have regional fire officers and/or ecologists. PWSNT does not share this policy. Although within PWSNT parks, rangers are assigned fire management projects they often do not get sufficient specialised training or time allocated to effectively drive fire management programs. .. Review of unpublished aspects of previous fire management on PWSNT reserves ... Fire-sensitive vegetation indicator species A widely followed guideline for determining the sensitivity of vegetation to fire was developed by Peter Latz in the early 1990s. This was based on a list of perennial indicator species, with the presence of two or more indicating fire-sensitive vegetation (Latz 2007). This system was based on species lists made at sites with particularly diverse compositions of woody species and having other signs indicating a moderate fire history, such as not having been burnt for a relatively long time period by a fire causing overstorey death (Latz 2007). Although somewhat subjective, this system still contributes to current understanding of fire-sensitive vegetation. Peter Latz (in litt.) also produced a longer list of fire-sensitive species, of which the indicators were a subset. One aspect of these lists that was contentious was the inclusion of some re-sprouting plants. These were included on the basis that they would decline over a series of fires that were too hot or frequent (P. Latz 2006, pers. comm.).

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