This is becoming a common story across Victoria. With the political ‘need’ to do fuel reduction burns and meet the 5% of the state target, individual burns are increasingly inappropriate in terms of area being burnt or timing of the burn.
The Bushfires Royal Commission recommended a statewide fuel reduction burn target of 5% of public land (390,000 hectares) each year.
However, as noted by the Victorian National Parks Association, the “evidence is increasing that this overly simplistic target is not the best way to increase public safety, and it is likely to lead to long-term damage to our finest natural areas”.
Check this article for some background: Biodiversity in Flames: The Growing Misuse of Fire in the Management of Native Ecosystems.
As noted in the article, there can be negative impacts from frequent and poorly planned burning:
- Many fauna species depend on pockets of long-unburnt refuges across the landscape to provide different types of habitat and cover from predators. Frequent and widespread burning is likely to greatly reduce the availability of these refuges and create a landscape dominated by recently burnt habitat.
- Too frequent burning will impact a suite of plant species, particularly those that favor long-unburnt vegetation (such as many ferns). Other plant species can take up to a decade following a fire event before they adequately replenish seed-banks and so frequent fire may cause them to decline or be eliminated.
- Some plant communities do not tolerate fire at all or only occasionally and so these ecosystems are likely to be impacted.
- Frequent fire in forest and woodland poses a threat to old-growth trees, because being riddled with hollows and fissures they are far more prone to catching on fire and burning from the inside out, leading to death or collapse of the trunk.
It should be noted that some vegetation communities do require frequent burning to maintain diversity, particularly grasslands and heathlands. However, burning of these more restricted habitats must also be thoroughly planned to avoid adverse impacts to sensitive species.
Planned burns are destroying habitat of endangered cockatoos
From The Age newspaper, written by Jessica Howard
Large parts of habitat critical to the survival of the endangered south-eastern red-tailed black cockatoo have been burnt, as part of planned burning programs by the state’s environment department.
Fewer than 1500 of the cockatoos are left in the wild. The bird is perhaps better known as ”Karak”, the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games mascot.
The fuel reduction burns began last week in Rennick State Forest, near the Victorian-South Australian border, Little Desert National Park, south-west of Dimboola, and Lower Glenelg National Park, north-west of Portland.
Sean Dooley, from BirdLife Australia, said the organisation had contacted the Victorian and federal governments in December over concerns that the planned burns would affect stringybark trees, on which the cockatoos rely for food. Both governments said a new bushfire management plan would be developed in the coming 18 months. ”In the meantime a vital habitat is being destroyed,” he said.