International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire
RESEARCH ARTICLE (Open Access)

Is there an inherent conflict in managing fire for people and conservation?

P. D. Bentley A and T. D. Penman A B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences, University of Melbourne, Creswick, Vic. 3363, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email: trent.penman@unimelb.edu.au

International Journal of Wildland Fire 26(6) 455-468 https://doi.org/10.1071/WF16150
Submitted: 26 March 2017  Accepted: 8 August 2017   Published: 6 June 2017

Abstract

Wildfires are a natural disturbance in many ecosystems, creating challenges for land management agencies who need to simultaneously reduce risk to people and maintain ecological values. Here we use the PHOENIX RapidFire fire behaviour simulator to compare fuel treatment strategies that meet the twin objectives of reducing wildfire risk to human settlements and a fire sensitive endangered species, the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) in south-eastern Australia. The local koala population is in decline and a conservation management plan is being prepared to exclude wildfire for a 10-year period to assist with population recovery. Twelve scenarios developed by the land management agencies were compared using four indicators: wildfire size; burn probability; impact from exposure to fire; and treatment cost. Compared with the current risk setting, three treatment scenarios were found to reduce wildfire size and burn probability concurrently to both people and koalas. These strategies worked by increasing the landscape area treated, which came with increased financial cost. However, the impact from exposure to fire for both property and koala habitat remains high. Additional complementary strategies beyond landscape fuel reductions are needed to reduce impact from exposure in the event of a wildfire.

Additional keywords: fire behaviour, fire simulation, house loss, risk, trade-off.


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