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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 22(3)

Ecological implications of standard fire-mapping approaches for fire management of the World Heritage Area, Fraser Island, Australia

Sanjeev Kumar Srivastava A F , Lee King B , Chris Mitchell C , Aaron Wiegand A , R. W. Carter D , Alison Shapcott A and Jeremy Russell-Smith A E

A School of Science Education and Engineering, Faculty of Science Health Education and Engineering, University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore DC, Qld 4558, Australia.
B Sunshine Coast Regional Council, Locked Bag 72 Sunshine Coast Mail Centre, Qld 4560, Australia.
C Department of Environment and Resources Management, GPO Box 2454, Brisbane, Qld 4001, Australia.
D Sustainability Research Centre, University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore DC, Qld 4558, Australia.
E Bushfires NT, PO Box 37346, Winnellie, NT 0821, Australia.
F Corresponding author. Email: ssrivast@usc.edu.au

International Journal of Wildland Fire 22(3) 381-393 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF11037
Submitted: 10 March 2011  Accepted: 22 July 2012   Published: 22 October 2012

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The characterisation of spatiotemporal fire patchiness is requisite for informing biodiversity conservation management in many landscape settings. Often, conservation managers are reliant on manually derived fire-history mapping products that delineate fire perimeters. An alternative standard approach concerns the application of remote sensing, typically using band combination indices obtained from relatively fine-scale imagery sensors. For Fraser Island, a World Heritage Area in subtropical, fire-prone eastern Australia, we contrast diagnostic fire-regime characteristics for different vegetation types over a 20-year period (1989–2008) as derived from historical manual, and remotely sensed, fire-mapping approaches. For the remote sensing component we adapt a commonly used approach utilising a differenced normalised burn ratio (dNBR) index derived from Landsat Thematic Mapper imagery. Manual mapping resulted in overestimation of fire-affected area (especially large fires) and fire frequency, whereas the dNBR procedure resulted in underestimation of fire-affected area under low fire-severity conditions, and overestimation of fire patchiness. Of significance for conservation management, (1) age class and related distributions for flammable vegetation types differed markedly between the two mapping approaches, (2) regardless, both methods demonstrated that substantial fuel loads had accumulated in flammable vegetation types by the end of the study period and (3) fuel age was shown to have a more significant effect than did seasonality on the incidence of very large (>1000 ha) fires. The study serves as an introduction to ongoing research concerning the measurement and application of fire patchiness to conservation management in flammable eastern Australian vegetation types.

Additional keywords: dNBR, dry sclerophyll woodland, fire regime, NBR, patchiness, patch mosaic, wallum heath.


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