RIGHT Fire vs WRONG Fire
When we apply the right type of fire to the right type of Country at the right time of year, we see the native ecosystems start to regenerate.
When we apply the wrong fire, we see burning of the canopy and soils destroying the regenerative qualities of fire.
A Dendrological Approch
The substantial body of research we review reveals that forests: water and energy interactions provide the foundations for survival through, carbon storage, for cooling terestrial surfaces and disributing water resources. Forests and trees must be recognised as prime regulators within the water, energy and carbon cycles....life.
If these functions are ignored, plannerd will be unable to asses, adapt to, or mitigate the impacts of changing land cover, the environment and climate.
Our understanding of how trees and forests influence water, energy and carbon cycles has important implications. For both for the structure of planning & management as well as how government institutions take trees and forests into the foresight to improve sustainability, adaptation and mitigation efforts.
The forest and tree centered research insights we review an analyse, provide a knowledge base for improving policies and actions.
When Country is mismanaged...
The mismanagement of country means out-of-control bush fires burn the land, as we have seen in the most recent id devastating bush fires. Burning our memories, our sacred places, all the things which make us who we are. Fire is an inevitable force in the dry season and needs to be managed correcly. Correct burning helps create a variety of habitats, including places that are very sensitive to fire like the rainforest. Different land types call for different techniques at different times of the year and the managing of fire requires knowledge about when to burn, where to burn and how to execute a burn.
When Indigenous people returned to Country and applied the right fire, wildfires were removed permanently.
Fire is an important symbol in Indigenous culture. Traditionally it was used as a practical tool in hunting, cooking, warmth and managing the landscape. It also holds great spiritual meaning, with many stories, memories and dances being passed down around the fire.
Cultural burning is a practice not limited to Australia. Other indigenous peoples applied the same technique, for example, the Indigenous Peoples of Canada.
Its all in the timing...
The timing applying fire is critical. It needs to happen at the right time of the year. To Indigenous experts, the country reveals when it is appropriate to use fire: indicators such as when trees flower and native grasses cure. The knowledge is held within the landscape. Once we learn how to read that landscape and interpret that knowledge, that’s when we can apply those fire practices.
The bushfire threat ends usually in November when the rains arrive and the wet season returns. If burning happens too early, big thick shrub develops after the fire which can become a big fuel load and is hard to manage.
If burning occurs too late, trees 'explode' during the fire and not much will be left after the fire goes through. Such fires emit higher levels of greenhouse gases than early season fires.
The right time depends on the ecosystem of the burn area because each system has its own identity and needs.
A central idea in fire management is to have a cool fire. Night time or early mornings are ideal for cool fires as during the day plants sweat out flammable oils, and a nightly dew helps cool down the fire. During a morning burn, the wind is often gentle and supports Indigenous people as they direct the burn. Without the help of the wind, burning cannot happen at the right time. The sun, in contrast, encourages the fire to burn. Cool fires don't bake the seeds and nutrients in the soil or destroy root systems. Flames are low so they cannot ignite the tree canopy and only char the bottom bark. They don't burn logs lying on the ground or habitat trees. Cool fires help change the vegetation structure by reducing the density of plants like Bracken Fern or Casuarina which lead to extreme fuel loads.
Hot fires, such as hazard reduction burns, encourage their regrowth.