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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 36(2)

EcoFire: regional-scale prescribed burning increases the annual carrying capacity of livestock on pastoral properties by reducing pasture loss from wildfire

Anja Skroblin A, Sarah Legge A C, Terry Webb A and Leigh P. Hunt B

A Australian Wildlife Conservancy, Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary, PMB 925, Derby, WA 6728, Australia.
B CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, PMB 44, Winnellie, NT 0822, Australia.
C Corresponding author. Email: sarah@australianwildlife.org

The Rangeland Journal 36(2) 133-142 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/RJ13095
Submitted: 12 September 2013  Accepted: 10 January 2014   Published: 11 February 2014

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Prescribed burning is an important management tool in the extensive pastoral lands in northern Australia. It can be used to influence grazing patterns, increase the nutritive value of pastures, reduce the density of woody shrubs and reduce the risk of damaging wildfires. The consequences of regional-scale prescribed burning on pasture availability and annual carrying capacities of pastoral properties in northern Australia were examined using EcoFire, a fire management program in the Kimberley Region of north-west Australia, as an example. Theoretical long-term carrying capacities of land systems, and fire scar imagery from years before (2004–06) and during EcoFire (2007–11) were used to model the impact of the program on the seasonality and extent of fire-induced losses in annual carrying capacity, and the likelihood of properties experiencing catastrophic losses in a given year. Over the 5 years that EcoFire has been running, it has resulted in a progressive reduction in the loss of annual carrying capacity caused by the burning of pasture, and shifted the season that annual carrying capacity is lost to fire from predominantly the late to the early dry season. Most notably, the established program has reduced the probability of experiencing catastrophic loss (defined here as >50% of annual carrying capacity removed due to fire) from 18 incidences to three incidences within a 3-year period. These outcomes have the potential to deliver economic benefits to pastoralists via increased annual carrying capacity and by improvements in pasture condition, provided stocking rates and pasture utilisation are managed carefully.

Additional keywords: fire ecology, grazing management, land management, remote sensing, savannah ecology.


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