International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Simulating the effectiveness of prescribed burning at altering wildfire behaviour in Tasmania, Australia

James M. Furlaud A B , Grant J. Williamson A and David M. J. S. Bowman A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Biological Sciences, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 55, Hobart, Tas. 7001, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email: james.furlaud@utas.edu.au

International Journal of Wildland Fire 27(1) 15-28 https://doi.org/10.1071/WF17061
Submitted: 31 March 2017  Accepted: 17 October 2017   Published: 15 December 2017

Abstract

Prescribed burning is a widely accepted wildfire hazard reduction technique; however, knowledge of its effectiveness remains limited. To address this, we employ simulations of a widely used fire behaviour model across the ecologically diverse Australian island state of Tasmania. We simulate three broad scenarios: (1) no fuel treatment, (2) a maximal treatment, with the most possible prescribed burning within ecological constraints, and (3) 12 hypothetically more implementable state-wide prescribed-burning plans. In all simulations, we standardised fire-weather inputs to represent regionally typical dangerous fire-weather conditions. Statistical modelling showed that an unrealistically large maximal treatment scenario could reduce fire intensity in three flammable vegetation types, and reduce fire probability in almost every vegetation type. However, leverage analysis of the 12 more-realistic implementable plans indicated that such prescribed burning would have only a minimal effect, if any, on fire extent and that none of these prescribed-burning plans substantially reduced fire intensity. The study highlights that prescribed burning can theoretically mitigate wildfire, but that an unrealistically large area would need to be treated to affect fire behaviour across the island. Rather, optimisation of prescribed burning requires careful landscape design at the local scale. Such designs should be based on improved fire behaviour modelling, empirical measurement of fuels and analysis of actual wildfires.

Additional keywords: dry eucalypt forests, eucalypt forests, fire behaviour model, fire management, fire weather, fuel reduction, fuel treatment, leverage, sedgelands, temperate rainforests, wet eucalypt forests.


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