New research into the complexities of prescribed burning across varied landscapes and weather conditions is supporting the critical decisions on how and where to use fire to protect communities.
Drawing on cutting-edge science around prescribed burning, the Prescribed Burning Atlas assists Australia’s fire agencies and land-management departments by presenting options for their prescribed burning strategies.
More than 250 people from across Australia, New Zealand and the US joined the launch of the Atlas, a new website that provides fire and land managers with insights into the effectiveness of prescribed burning.
Developed through the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC in partnership with the University of Wollongong, Western Sydney University and the University of Melbourne, the Prescribed Burning Atlas is an outcome of the CRC’s ‘From hectares to tailor made solutions’ project1 and was launched by Naomi Stephens, CRC Director and Acting Executive Director Park Operations, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, and hosted by CRC Research Director Dr John Bates.
The Atlas incorporates thousands of fire simulations across varied landscapes and under different weather conditions, with the research behind it headed by Prof Ross Bradstock at the University of Wollongong, who introduced the Atlas and described its potentials and future scopes.
‘The Prescribed Burning Atlas is about helping to identify the sweet spot of prescribed burning. It can compare the level of risk reduction achieved from different combinations of prescribed burning strategies, such as smaller edge burns close to homes and larger broadscale burns,’ Prof Bradstock said.
‘There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to prescribed burning. Strategies must be tailored to different environments, and the cost-effectiveness of these different strategies can vary considerably between regions.’
Dr Hamish Clarke (University of Wollongong, Western Sydney University), one of the researchers who developed the Atlas, ran through a detailed tour of the Prescribed Burning Atlas, demonstrating its ability to compare the risk reduction from different types of prescribed burning techniques, such as smaller burns close to homes, and larger more remote burns.
With 13 different study areas across New South Wales, Victoria, the ACT, Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland comprising the urban interface, remote bushland, arid grassland and sub-tropical bush, the Atlas can not only compare the costs of different mitigation options and their effect on reducing the likelihood of life loss, property loss and environmental values, it also has the ability to compare the effects of climate change on prescribed burning effectiveness.
Dr Bates believes the Prescribed Burning Atlas is a crucial tool for now and for the future.
‘Australia is a land of fire and prescribed burning has many different objectives – from reducing the risk of bushfire to homes and businesses, to improving ecological outcomes. The Prescribed Burning Atlas will help our fire and land manager to tailor their prescribed burning strategies to best reduce the risk in a target area, showing what is most effective and where it has limited value,’ he said.
Explore the Prescribed Burning Atlas at prescribedburnatlas.science.
The team behind the Prescribed Burning Atlas comprises of Prof Ross Bradstock (University of Wollongong), A/Prof Owen Price (University of Wollongong), A/Prof Trent Penman (University of Melbourne), A/Prof Mattias Boer (Western Sydney University), Dr Hamish Clarke (University of Wollongong/Western Sydney University), Brett Cirulis (University of Melbourne) and Anthony Rawlins (University of Melbourne).
For more information, go to prescribedburnatlas.science
Image courtesy of NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service
Image courtesy of The Prescribed Burning Atlas: prescribedburnatlas.science
Image courtesy of Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC