Chapter 4 – Effects of fire in the landcape

Chapter 4 – Effects of fire in the landcape Book Section

Savanna Burning: Understanding and using fire in northern Australia

  • Author(s): Jeremy Russell-Smith, Tony Start, John Woinarski
  • Secondary Author(s): Rodd Dyer, Peter Jacklyn, Ian Partridge, Jeremy Russell-Smith, Dick Williams
  • Published: 2001
  • Publisher: Tropical Savannas CRC

Abstract: Every year thousands of square kilometres of grasslands in northern Australia go up in flames and smoke. Is it wanton destruction or part of the natural ecosystem of tropical savannas? Savanna Burning: Understanding and Using Fire in Northern Australia , is a readable and well-illustrated book—in full colour—that tries to answer that question by providing the latest information on fire to managers of pastoral, Aboriginal and conservation lands, ecologists and the general public. It explores the benefits and damage caused by fire; how land managers can use fire more effectively to maintain natural resources, and the future pressures arising from global warming and carbon trading. It also asks how current fire patterns change ecosystems developed under traditional Aboriginal burning. To help you see which parts of the book might be most useful the chapters are outlined below. Chapter 1: Introduction Here we describe fire management issues that need to be addressed in northern Australia and introduce the people needed to help solve these issues. Chapter 2: Savanna landscapes Savanna Landscapes describes the physical environment of the tropical savannas and shows how the different landscapes within the savannas have been shaped by climate, geology and soils. Despite this variation, all savanna landscapes share similar fire issues. Present-day land use and fire patterns are in turn shaped by the landscapes and climate of the north. Chapter 3: Savanna fire regimes This chapter describes different types of fire in the tropical savannas and introduces the concept of fire ‘regimes’. It describes the characteristics of these fire regimes and how they are affected by weather and vegetation—or ‘fuel’. This chapter shows how different fire regimes are used by different land users for various tasks in the landscape. It briefly describes current problems with present fire regimes and how they affect conservation, production and culture. Chapter 4: Effects of fire in the landscape This chapter details the effects of current fire regimes on the landscape—how current fire patterns are impacting on activities and values ranging from pastoralism to traditional practices to biodiversity. These include how fire patterns affect the ratio of trees to shrubs; of annual to perennial grasses; fire-sensitive plant species; and their impact on various native animals and air and water quality. Chapter 5: Using fire in savanna management This shows how better fire management can overcome many of the problems described in Chapter 4. Fire-management techniques are described for Aboriginal and pastoral land and for managing biodiversity. It is explained, for example, which burning regimes can be used to enhance pasture vigour; control weeds; provide habitat for native animals and protect against wildfires. Chapter 6: Burning operations Once you know what fire regimes are needed, ‘Operations’ describes how to put that knowledge into practice. It describes when and where to light fires for particular tasks; what ignition techniques can be used and how to plan for burning. The construction of firebreaks is detailed. The legislation that governs the lighting of fire in WA, NT and Qld is also referenced. Chapter 7: Monitoring fire regimes How do you know that fire management is working? You need to be able to monitor the effects of fire on the landscape and then, if necessary, use these results to change existing fire management. Monitoring techniques involving plots, aerial photography and satellite remote sensing are described. The complex language and high technology of satellite monitoring is explained. Chapter 8: Global trends and fire management Finally, we look to the future. This chapter examines how fire management will be affected by global and local trends including greenhouse issues and carbon trading, globalisation of markets, new laws covering biodiversity and air quality, and the impact of Native Title legislation.

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Jeremy Russell-Smith, Tony Start, John Woinarski, 2001, Chapter 4 – Effects of fire in the landcape, Book Section, viewed 24 July 2024,

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