CSIRO Publishing blank image blank image blank image blank imageBooksblank image blank image blank image blank imageJournalsblank image blank image blank image blank imageAbout Usblank image blank image blank image blank imageShopping Cartblank image blank image blank image You are here: Journals > International Journal of Wildland Fire   
International Journal of Wildland Fire
  Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire
blank image Search
blank image blank image
blank image
  Advanced Search

Journal Home
About the Journal
Editorial Structure
Online Early
Current Issue
Just Accepted
All Issues
Special Issues
Research Fronts
Sample Issue
20-Year Author Index
For Authors
General Information
Submit Article
Author Instructions
Open Access
For Referees
Referee Guidelines
Review an Article
For Subscribers
Subscription Prices
Customer Service
Print Publication Dates
Library Recommendation

blue arrow e-Alerts
blank image
Subscribe to our Email Alert or RSS feeds for the latest journal papers.

red arrow Connect with CP
blank image
facebook twitter logo LinkedIn

red arrow Connect with IAWF
blank image
facebook twitter LinkedIn


Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 21(3)

The influence of prescribed fire on the extent of wildfire in savanna landscapes of western Arnhem Land, Australia

Owen F. Price A D, Jeremy Russell-Smith B C and Felicity Watt B C

A Institute for Conservation Biology and Environmental Management, University of Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia.
B Bushfires NT, PO Box 37346, Winnellie, NT 0821, Australia.
C Tropical Savannas Management Cooperative Research Centre, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, NT 0909, Australia.
D Corresponding author. Email: oprice@uow.edu.au

International Journal of Wildland Fire 21(3) 297-305 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF10079
Submitted: 16 July 2010  Accepted: 20 July 2011   Published: 3 January 2012

PDF (450 KB) $25
 Export Citation

Fire regimes in many north Australian savanna regions are today characterised by frequent wildfires occurring in the latter part of the 7-month dry season. A fire management program instigated from 2005 over 24 000 km2 of biodiversity-rich Western Arnhem Land aims to reduce the area and severity of late dry-season fires, and associated greenhouse gas emissions, through targeted early dry-season prescribed burning. This study used fire history mapping derived mostly from Landsat imagery over the period 1990–2009 and statistical modelling to quantify the mitigation of late dry-season wildfire through prescribed burning. From 2005, there has been a reduction in mean annual total proportion burnt (from 38 to 30%), and particularly of late dry-season fires (from 29 to 12.5%). The slope of the relationship between the proportion of early-season prescribed fire and subsequent late dry-season wildfire was ~–1. This means that imposing prescribed early dry-season burning can substantially reduce late dry-season fire area, by direct one-to-one replacement. There is some evidence that the spatially strategic program has achieved even better mitigation than this. The observed reduction in late dry-season fire without concomitant increase in overall area burnt has important ecological and greenhouse gas emissions implications. This efficient mitigation of wildfire contrasts markedly with observations reported from temperate fire-prone forested systems.

Additional keywords: fire management, greenhouse gas emissions, Leverage, planned fire, unplanned fire.


Australian Bureau of Statistics (2001) Australian Census data 2001. (Canberra)

Baeza MJ, De Luis M, Raventos J, Escarre A (2002) Factors influencing fire behaviour in shrublands of different stand ages and the implications for using prescribed burning to reduce wildfire risk. Journal of Environmental Management 65, 199–208.
CrossRef | CAS |

Boer MM, Sadler RJ, Wittkuhn R, McCaw L, Grierson PF (2009) Long-term impacts of prescribed burning on regional extent and incidence of wildfires – evidence from fifty years of active fire management in SW Australian forests. Forest Ecology and Management 259, 132–142.
CrossRef |

Bowman DMJS (1998) Tansley Review No. 101: the impact of Aboriginal landscape burning on the Australian biota. New Phytologist 140, 385–410.
CrossRef |

Bowman DMJS, Panton WJ (1993) Decline of Callitris intratropica R.T. Baker and H.G. Smith in the Northern Territory: implications for pre- and post-European colonization fire regimes. Journal of Biogeography 20, 373–381.
CrossRef |

Bowman DJMS, Price O, Whitehead PJ, Walsh A (2001) The ‘wilderness effect’ and the decline of Callitris intratropica in Western Arnhem Land, northern Australia. Australian Journal of Botany 49, 665–672.
CrossRef |

Bradstock R (2003) Protection of people and property: toward an integrated risk management model. In ‘Australia Burning: Fire Ecology, Policy and Management Issues’. (Eds G Cary, D Lindenmayer, S Dovers) pp. 119–123. (CSIRO Publishing: Melbourne)

Bradstock RA, Gill AM (2001) Living with fire and biodiversity at the urban edge: in search of a sustainable solution to the human protection problem in southern Australia. Journal of Mediterranean Ecology 2, 179–195.

Bradstock R, Williams RJ (2009) How might management mitigate emissions from fires? New Phytologist 183, 931–934.
CrossRef |

Burnham KP, Anderson DR (2002) ‘Model Selection and Multimodel Inference: a Practical Information-Theoretic Approach.’ (Springer-Verlag: New York)

Cheney P (1994) The effectiveness of fuel reduction burning for fire management. In ‘Fire and Biodiversity: the Effects and Effectiveness of Fire Management’, 8–9 October 1994, Footscray. pp. 9–16. (Biodiversity Unit, Department of Environment, Sport and Territories: Canberra)

Collins BM, Kelly M, van Wagtendonk JW, Stephens SL (2007) Spatial patterns of large natural fires in Sierra Nevada wilderness areas. Landscape Ecology 22, 545–557.
CrossRef |

Cook G, Meyer C (2009) Fire, fuels and greenhouse gases. In ‘Culture, Ecology and Economy of Savanna Fire Management in Northern Australia: Rekindling the Wurrk Tradition’. (Eds J Russell-Smith, P Whitehead, P Cooke) pp. 313–327. (CSIRO Publications: Melbourne)

Dwyer E, Pinnock S, Gregoire JM, Pereira JMC (2000) Global spatial and temporal distribution of vegetation fire as determined from satellite observations. International Journal of Remote Sensing 21, 1289–1302.
CrossRef |

Edwards A, Hauser P, Anderson M, McCartney J, Armstrong M, Thackway R, Allan G, Hempel C, Russell-Smith J (2001) A tale of two parks: contemporary fire regimes of Litchfield and Nitmiluk National Parks, monsoonal northern Australia. International Journal of Wildland Fire 10, 79–89.
CrossRef |

Edwards AC, Russell-Smith J (2009) Ecological thresholds and the status of fire-sensitive vegetation in western Arnhem Land, northern Australia: implications for management. International Journal of Wildland Fire 18, 127–146.
CrossRef |

Fernandes PAM (2008) Forest fires in Galicia (Spain): the outcome of unbalanced fire management. Journal of Forest Economics 14, 155–157.
CrossRef |

Fernandes PM, Botelho HS (2003) A review of prescribed burning effectiveness in fire hazard reduction. International Journal of Wildland Fire 12, 117–128.
CrossRef |

Finney MA (2001) Design of regular landscape fuel treatments for modifying fire growth and behaviour. Forest Science 47, 219–228.

Finney MA (2007) A computational method for optimising fuel treatment locations. International Journal of Wildland Fire 16, 702–711.
CrossRef |

Franklin DC (1999) Evidence of disarray in granivorous bird assemblages in the savannas of northern Australia, a region of sparse human settlement. Biological Conservation 90, 53–68.
CrossRef |

Gill AM, Ryan PG, Moore PHR, Gibson M (2000) Fire regimes of World Heritage Kakadu National Park, Australia. Austral Ecology 25, 616–625.

Gould JS, McCaw WL, Cheney NP, Ellis PF, Knight IK, Sullivan AL (2007) ‘Project Vesta – Fire in Dry Eucalypt Forest: Fuel Structure, Fuel Dynamics and Fire Behaviour.’ (Ensis–CSIRO: Canberra, ACT, and Department of Environment and Conservation: Perth, WA)

Haining R (2003) ‘Spatial Data Analysis.’ (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK)

Hoffa E, Ward D, Hao W, Susott R, Wakimoto R (1999) Seasonality of carbon emissions from biomass burning in a Zambian savanna. Journal of Geophysical Research 104, 13841–13853.
CrossRef | CAS |

Hurteau MD, Koch GW, Hungate BA (2008) Carbon protection and fire risk reduction: toward a full accounting of forest carbon offsets. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 6, 493–498.
CrossRef |

Keeley JE, Fotheringham CJ (2001) Historic fire regime in southern California shrublands. Conservation Biology 15, 1536–1548.
CrossRef |

King KJ, Cary GJ, Bradstock RA, Chapman J, Pyrke A, Marsden-Smedley JB (2006) Simulation of prescribed burning strategies in south-west Tasmania, Australia: effects on unplanned fires, fire regimes, and ecological management values. International Journal of Wildland Fire 15, 527–540.
CrossRef |

Liddle DT, Gibbons A (2006) National recovery plan for Boronia quadrilata and Boronia viridiflora in the Northern Territory of Australia. Northern Territory Department of Natural Resources, Environment and the Arts (Darwin, NT)

Loehle C (2004) Applying landscape principles to fire hazard reduction. Forest Ecology and Management 198, 261–267.
CrossRef |

Luke RH, McArthur AG (1977) ‘Bushfire in Australia.’ (Australian Government Publishing Service: Canberra, ACT)

Magee L (1990) R2 measures based on Wald and likelihood ratio joint significance tests. The American Statistician 44, 250–253.
CrossRef |

McCarthy GJ, Tolhurst KG (2004) Effectiveness of broad-scale fuel reduction burning in Victorian parks and forests. In ‘Bushfire 2004: Earth Wind and Fire – Fusing the Elements’, 25–28 May 2004, Adelaide. (Department of Environment and Heritage: Adelaide)

Meyer CP, Cook G (2010) ‘Seasonality of Emission Factors from Savanna Burning.’ (Marine and Atmospheric Research: Melbourne)

Mitchell SR, Harmon ME, O’Connell KEB (2009) Forest fuel reduction alters fire severity and long-term carbon storage in three Pacific Northwest ecosystems. Ecological Applications 19, 643–655.
CrossRef |

Murphy B, Russell-Smith J, Watt F, Cook G (2009) Fire management and woody biomass carbon stocks in mesic savannas. In ‘Culture, Ecology and Economy of Savanna Fire Management in Northern Australia: Rekindling the Wurrk Tradition’. (Eds J Russell-Smith, P Whitehead, P Cooke) pp. 361–394. (CSIRO Publishing: Melbourne)

Murphy B, Russell-Smith J, Prior L (2010) Frequent fires reduce tree growth in north Australian savannas: implications for tree demography and carbon sequestration. Global Change Biology 16, 331–343.
CrossRef |

Narayan C, Fernandes PM, van Brusselen J, Schuck A (2007) Potential for CO2 emissions mitigation in Europe through prescribed burning in the context of the Kyoto Protocol. Forest Ecology and Management 251, 164–173.
CrossRef |

Penman TD, Binns DL, Shiels RJ, Allen RM, Kavanagh RP (2008) Changes in understorey plant species richness following logging and prescribed burning in shrubby dry sclerophyll forests of south-eastern Australia. Austral Ecology 33, 197–210.
CrossRef |

Price O, Baker B (2007) Fire regimes and their correlates in the Darwin region of northern Australia. Pacific Conservation Biology 13, 177–188.

Price O, Russell-Smith J, Edwards A (2003) Fine-scale patchiness of different fire intensities in sandstone heath vegetation in northern Australia. International Journal of Wildland Fire 12, 227–236.
CrossRef |

Price OF, Bradstock R (2011) The influence of weather and fuel management on the annual extent of unplanned fires in the Sydney region of Australia. International Journal of Wildland Fire 20, 142–151.

Price OF, Edwards AC, Russell-Smith J (2007) Efficacy of permanent firebreaks and aerial prescribed burning in western Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia. International Journal of Wildland Fire 16, 295–303.
CrossRef |

R Development Core Team (2007) ‘A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing.’ (R Foundation for Statistical Computing: Vienna, Austria)

Roy DP, Boschetti L, Justice CO, Ju J (2008) The collection 5 MODIS burned area product – global evaluation by comparison with the MODIS active fire product. Remote Sensing of Environment 112, 3690–3707.
CrossRef |

Russell-Smith J, Edwards AC (2006) Seasonality and fire severity in savanna landscapes of monsoonal northern Australia. International Journal of Wildland Fire 15, 541–550.
CrossRef |

Russell-Smith J, Ryan PG, Cheal D (2002) Fire regimes and the conservation of sandstone heath in monsoonal northern Australia: frequency, interval, patchiness. Biological Conservation 104, 91–106.
CrossRef |

Russell-Smith J, Yates C, Edwards A, Allan GE, Cook GD, Cooke P, Craig R, Heath B, Smith R (2003) Contemporary fire regimes of northern Australia, 1997–2001: change since Aboriginal occupancy, challenges for sustainable management. International Journal of Wildland Fire 12, 283–297.
CrossRef |

Russell-Smith J, Murphy BP, Meyer CP, Cook GD, Maier S, Edwards AC, Schatz J, Brocklehurst P (2009) Improving estimates of savanna burning emissions for greenhouse accounting in northern Australia: limitations, challenges, applications. International Journal of Wildland Fire 18, 1–18.
CrossRef | CAS |

Trainor CR, Woinarski JCZ (1994) Responses of lizards to three experimental fires in the savanna forests of Kakadu National Park. Wildlife Research 21, 131–148.
CrossRef |

Whitehead P, Purdon P, Russell-Smith J, Cooke P, Sutton S (2008) The management of climate change through prescribed savanna burning: emerging contributions of indigenous people in northern Australia. Public Administration and Development 28, 374–385.
CrossRef |

Williams R, Gill A, Moore P (2003) Fire behaviour. In ‘Fire in Tropical Savannas: the Kapalga Experiment’. (Eds A Andersen, G Cook and R Williams) pp. 33–46. (Springer-Verlag: New York)

Woinarski JCZ, Milne DJ, Wanganeen G (2001) Changes in mammal populations in relatively intact landscapes of Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, Australia. Austral Ecology 26, 360–370.
CrossRef |

Woinarski JCZ, Williams RJ, Price OF, Rankmore B (2005) Landscapes without boundaries: measuring quality of wildlife habitat in northern Australia. Wildlife Research 32, 377–388.
CrossRef |

Yates CP, Edwards AC, Russell-Smith J (2008) Big fires and their ecological impacts in Australian savannas: size and frequency matters. International Journal of Wildland Fire 17, 768–781.
CrossRef |

Subscriber Login

Legal & Privacy | Contact Us | Help


© CSIRO 1996-2016