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Project leadership

Remote north Australian communities are susceptible to cyclones, floods and bushfires. Cultural and socio-economic factors combine with the challenges of remote service delivery – including cost, low levels of infrastructure and distance from the urban centres that host key service delivery organisations - to create situations where communities can be highly vulnerable to natural hazards. In this context, it is important to understand how these variables can be navigated to enhance community resilience. This task requires a detailed understanding of current capacities, preparation and response strategies, communication pathways and local governance structures.

Northern Australia is an extensive area with a small population and minimal infrastructure. There is considerable summer rain (the ‘wet’) and very little in winter (the ‘dry’). In the ‘wet’, vegetation growth is considerable, producing abundant fine fuel. Temperature is relatively high all year, so that when the rain stops at the end of the ‘wet’, the fine fuels dry quickly and are extremely fire prone. One simple ignition in the latter half of the ‘dry’ can create a bushfire that will burn for months. Planned, or prescribed, burning is the main tool for halting bushfire by reducing fuel loads.

This project has built on existing work to create more sophisticated mapping and modelling tools. The information can be used for planning, operations, and suppression including summaries of past and present fire regimes.

The research team is applying this information and developing the Savanna Monitoring and Evaluation Reporting Framework, to provide a standardised assessment report on fire regimes for all Australia’s savannas and rangelands.

This project, now in its utilisation phase, has developed a training program that builds on the current assets in place, such as the ranger programs, and leads to increasing levels of competence and confidence and in its turn, resilience. The project is a response to north Australian stakeholder concerns that existing training is inadequate for their needs.
Year Type Citation
2016 Report Russell-Smith, J., Yates, C. P. & Edwards, A. C. Savanna fire management and bushfire and natural hazard scenario planning for northern Australia: annual project report 2015-2016. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2016).
2016 Report Russell-Smith, J. Scoping remote north Australian community resilience and developing governance models through action research: annual project report 2015-2016. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2016).
2015 Conference Paper Edwards, A. C., Russell-Smith, J., Sangha, K. & Yates, C. P. Culturally appropriate mapping tools for informing two-way fire management planning in remote indigenous north Australian communities - peer viewed. Adelaide Conference 2015 (2015).
2015 Report Russell-Smith, J. Scoping Remote North Australian Community Resilience Annual Report 2014. (2015).
2015 Report Russell-Smith, J. Scoping remote north Australian community resilience and developing governance models through action research: Annual project report 2014-2015. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2015).
2015 Report Russell-Smith, J. Building Resilient Remote Communities in Northern Australia Annual Report 2014. (2015).
2015 Report Russell-Smith, J. & Edwards, A. C. Savanna fire management and scenario planning for North Australia: Annual project report 2014-2015. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2015).
2015 Presentation Russell-Smith, J. Risks and opportunities for sustainable savanna fire management. (2015).
2015 Journal Article Edwards, A. C., Russell-Smith, J. & Meyer, C. P. (Mick). Contemporary fire regime risks to key ecological assets and processes in north Australian savannas. International Journal of Wildland Fire 24, 857-870 (2015).
2015 Conference Paper Sangha, K. et al. Developing enterprise opportunities and resilience in remote north Australian communities - non peer reviewed extended abstract. Adelaide Conference 2015 (2015).
2014 Report Russell-Smith, J., Meyer, C. P. (Mick) & Edwards, A. C. Northern Fire Mapping: Developing Robust Fire Extent and Severity Mapping Products for the Tropical Savannas Final Report. Final Report for the Northern Fire Mapping Project (2014).
2012 Journal Article A. Gill, M. et al. Modelling the potential for prescribed burning to mitigate carbon emissions from wildfires in fire-prone forests of Australia. (2012). at <http://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/WF11023.htm>
2009 Journal Article Edwards, A. C. & Russell-Smith, J. Ecological thresholds and the status of fire-sensitive vegetation in western Arnhem Land, northern Australia: implications for management. International Journal of Wildland Fire 18, 127 (2009).
2009 Journal Article Russell-Smith, J. et al. Improving estimates of savanna burning emissions for greenhouse accounting in northern Australia: limitations, challenges, applications. International Journal of Wildland Fire 18, 1 (2009).
2008 Journal Article Yates, C. P., Edwards, A. C. & Russell-Smith, J. Big fires and their ecological impacts in Australian savannas: size and frequency matters. International Journal of Wildland Fire 17, 768 (2008).
2007 Journal Article Russell-Smith, J. et al. Bushfires 'down under': patterns and implications of contemporary Australian landscape burning. International Journal of Wildland Fire 16, 361 (2007).
2007 Journal Article Price, O. F., Edwards, A. C. & Russell-Smith, J. Efficacy of permanent firebreaks and aerial prescribed burning in western Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia. International Journal of Wildland Fire 16, 295 (2007).
2006 Journal Article Russell-Smith, J. & Edwards, A. C. Seasonality and fire severity in savanna landscapes of monsoonal northern Australia. International Journal of Wildland Fire 15, 541 (2006).
2005 Journal Article Andersen, A. N. et al. Fire frequency and biodiversity conservation in Australian tropical savannas: implications from the Kapalga fire experiment. Austral Ecology 155-167 (2005).

Posters credited

Assessing ecological risk with indigenous communities: Tropical savannas Northern Australia


This project builds upon substantial work previously undertaken within the facility of the Bushfire CRC “North Australia fire mapping” project.

Remote sensing of tree structure and biomass in north Australia mesic savanna


This PhD research aims to develop and assess methods, using stereo satelitte imagery and laser scanning data, to extract 3D tree biophysical structural parameters for the purposes of accurately estimating biomass/carbon stocks in NT mesic savannas.

Jeremy Russell-Smith Conference Poster 2016


The project applies ecological-economic methods to help build the resilience and sustainability of remote Indigenous communities across northern Australia.

Key Topics:
Andrew Edwards Conference Poster 2016


Providing mapping tools from detailed research, modelling and analysis of the occurrence and effects of fire in savanna landscapes in northern Australia to assist with fire management

Key Topics:
The Savanna Monitoring & Evaluation Reporting Framework (SMERF)


The work undertaken through the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC is part of a savanna-wide program of mostly web based fire mapping and related information to assist land managers with fire planning across very large tracts of land. We are developiuung the Savanna Monitoring & Evaluation Reporting Framework (SMERF) to provide easy to use, flexible, but sophisticated reports.

Remote sensing of tree structure and biomass in north Australian mesic savanna


The main goal of this study is to determine the optimal procedure for the estimation of above-ground biomass in north Australian mesic savannas by using LIDAR remote sensing based methods.

Resources credited

Type Released Title Download Key Topics
Presentation-Slideshow 21 Mar 2014 Fire management for northern Australia Save (7.5 MB) Northern Australia, savanna grasslands, scenario analysis
Presentation-Slideshow 03 Jul 2015 Building Community Resilience in Northern Australia Save (2.2 MB) communities, fire, resilience
Presentation-Slideshow 03 Sep 2015 Developing the Enterprise Opportunities and Resilience in Remote North Australian Communities Save (4.25 MB) indigenous communities, Northern Australia, resilience
Presentation-Slideshow 11 Sep 2015 Savanna fire management and bushfire and natural hazard scenario planning for North Australia Save (16.09 MB) Northern Australia, planning
Presentation-Audio-Video 14 Dec 2015 Scoping remote north Australian community resilience - project overview Save (0 bytes) Northern Australia, planning, resilience
HazardNoteEdition 02 Feb 2016 Research for better land management Save (133.76 KB) fuel reduction, land management, prescribed burning
Presentation-Slideshow 17 May 2016 Building community resilience in northern Australia Save (2.48 MB) indigenous communities, Northern Australia, resilience
HazardNoteEdition 14 Jun 2016 What is disaster resilience and how can it be measured? Save (373.58 KB) communities, indigenous communities, resilience
Presentation-Slideshow 24 Oct 2016 Savanna fire management and bushfire and natural hazard scenario planning for north Australia Save (3.85 MB) fire, planning, prescribed burning
Presentation-Slideshow 18 Apr 2017 Building Community Resilience in Northern Australia Save (631.99 KB) governance, Northern Australia

All the resources from our 2016 conference

Research program in detail

Where, why and how are Australians dying in floods?

2015-2016 year in review

Bushfire planning with kids ebook