Understanding and Mitigating Hazards

Project Status:

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.

Savanna fire management for north Australia – project overview

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.

The savanna burning research story has many components that all tie together and overlap. In parallel this project examines two significant programs:

  1. Satellite-derived mapping. The team has developed, and continues to develop, satellite-derived fire and habitat mapping to describe the extent, occurrence and severity of fire at various scales to assess fire effect in various habitats.
  2. Extensive long-term field sampling. The team has sampled savanna vegetation in detail on the ground at permanent sites for more than 20 years to understand the impacts of different fire management on the environment. A suite of permanent sites exist across the Kimberley, Cape York, the western Top End, and the Gulf region bordering Queensland and the Northern Territory that describe fuel accumulation and tree growth with respect to fire regimes.

There are many beneficiaries of a new Savanna Burning Methodology including Federal Department of Environment and Energy, numerous Indigenous Resource Agencies, all the northern land councils, the Indigenous Land Corporation, numerous pastoral lease holders, Queensland Parks and Wildlife, the Department of Parks and Wildlife Western Australia and the Parks and Wildlife Commission NT.

Currently north Australia is generating over $30 million dollars annually through payments for ecosystem services on over 330,000 km2, an area which is still only 40% of the potential extent for these projects. The new methodology being developed will open the industry up to more of these stakeholders, particularly in East Arnhem Land and on Cape York, where it is sometimes more difficult to undertake prescribed burning until later in the season.

The Savanna Monitoring and Evaluation Reporting Framework will gather all aspects of the research to date and provide end-users with a simple ability to monitor their fire management and evaluate its effects through time.

Post fire field work
17 November, 2017
New journal articles and reports on CRC research are available online.
13 October, 2016
New journal articles and reports on CRC research are available online.
Andrew Edwards measures the diameter of a tree killed by the fire.
26 February, 2016
This time last week (it is 2:37pm as I type) I was wandering around Mataranka Station, four hours south of Darwin, looking at trees. Not my usual Friday afternoon, I can tell you.
Dr Andrew Edwards (left) measures the diameter of a tree killed by the fire, while Grigorijs Goldbergs (right) records the data.
25 February, 2016
CRC researchers have been gathering data on how high severity fires in northern Australia can affect the health of trees
Researchers and end-users in Darwin.
18 February, 2016
End-users and researchers met in Darwin this week to discuss the range of CRC research underway across northern Australia.
CRC board members with book authors Jeremy Russell-Smith, Andrews Edwards and local Independent MP Gerry Wood.
16 July, 2015
The potential of using bushfire as a management tool to reduce Northern Australia’s carbon footprint shows how science can support the development of new industries in northern Australia.
Workshop participants at Ngukurr.
5 June, 2015
CRC researchers have spent four days deep in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory discussing the community resilience studies underway in the communities of Ngukurr and Gunbalanya.
Year Type Citation
2017 Report Russell-Smith, J. Savanna fire management and bushfire and natural hazard scenario planning for northern Australia: annual project report 2016-17. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2017).
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).
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 Conference Paper Rumsewicz, M. Research proceedings from the 2015 Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & AFAC conference. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & AFAC annual conference 2015 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 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 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).
Assessing ecological risk with indigenous communities: Tropical savannas Northern Australia
25 Aug 2014

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

Key Topics:
Andrew Edwards Conference Poster 2016
14 Aug 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)
29 Jun 2017

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.

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