The Rangeland Journal The Rangeland Journal Society
Rangeland ecology and management

Fire Management of Rangelands in the Kimberley Low-Rainfall Zone: a Review.

AB Craig

The Rangeland Journal 21(1) 39 - 70
Published: 1999


This paper examines a range of environmental, research and practical issues affecting fire management of pastoral lands in the southern part of the Kimberley region in Western Australia. Although spinifex grasslands dominate most leases, smaller areas of more productive pastures are crucially important to many enterprises. There is a lack of local documentation of burning practices during traditional Aboriginal occupation; general features of the fire regime at that time can be suggested on the basis of information from other inland areas. Definition of current tire regimes is improving through interpretation of NOAA-AVHRR satellite imagery. Irregular extensive wildfires appear to dominate, although this should be confirmed by further accumulation, validation and analysis of fire history data. While these fires cause ma,jor difficulties. controlled burn~ng is a necessary part of station management. Although general management guidelines have been published. local research into tire-grazing effects has been very limited. For spinifex pastures, reconimendations are generally consistent with those applying elsewhere in northern Australia. They favour periodic burning of mature spinifex late in the year, before or shortly after the arrival of the first rains, with deferment of grazing. At that time. days of high fire danger may still be expected and prediction of fire behaviour is critical to burning decisions. Early dry-season burning is also required for creating protective tire breaks and to prepare for burning later in the year. Further development of tools for predicting fire behaviour, suited to the discontinuous fuels characteristic of the area, would be warranted. A range of questions concerning the timing and spatial pattern of burning, control of post-fire grazing, and the economics of fire management, should be addressed as resources permit. This can be done through a combination of opportunistic studies, modelling and documentation of local experience. The development of an expert system should be considered to assist in planning and conducting burning activities. Key words: Kimberley, fire regimes, fire management, pastoralism, spinifex

© ARS 1999

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