Patchy burns better for flora and fauna

The patchiness of prescribed burns in shrubby dry Eucalypt forests reduces the potential impact of these fires on flora and fauna, a NSW DPI study has found.

Trent Penman, fire ecology research officer with Forests NSW, said prescribed burning is a commonly applied management tool used to reduce fuel loads in an attempt to improve the ability to control wildfires.

"However, repeated prescribed burning has the potential to result in detrimental impacts on the biodiversity of an area," Dr Penman said.

Using data from a long term study site managed by Forests NSW in south eastern NSW, DPI scientists examined the patchiness of repeated prescribed burning.

"Prescribed burns in shrubby dry Eucalypt forests are inherently patchy, burning on average only 40 per cent of the planned area," Dr Penman said.

"At times this can be as high as 90 per cent or as low as six per cent.

"Not surprisingly, ridge sites burnt more frequently than gully sites."

Dr Penman said the patchiness of the prescribed fires suggest that the impact of these fires on flora and fauna would be lower than expected from a homogenous burn, as the unburnt areas provide safe refuge for many species.

"Results from these forests may differ from those found in grassy forests which are expected to have more homogenous burns," he said.