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The Bushfire 2016 program will include two concurrent sessions running all day Wednesday and Thursday. Keynote speakers will be featured in the morning and after lunch. As much as possible, time will be allowed for questions and discussion, after presentations or at the end of a themed session. Wednesday evening includes a catered poster session, Thursday evening an informal dinner and we aim to have a field trip on Friday. A permanent poster display will be assembled in the main break out space, along with displays for sponsors and stallholders. Further information on the program, themes and social activities will be provided soon.

The abstracts have been grouped into ten key themes, these are:
  • Fire & Risk (full day);
  • Cultural Burning and Traditional Custodian Fire Practices (full day);
  • Engaging with Community for Improved Fire Management Outcomes (half day);
  • Fire Ecology (half day);
  • Maps, Models and Planning for Improved Fire Management (half day);
  • Fire and Land Management (half day);
  • Fire, Soils and Climate Change (half day);
  • Fire Management for Linear Infrastructure (half day); 
  • Fire, Threatened Species and Conservation (half day); and
  • Fires in the Past – Essential Knowledge for Management (half day).

Keynote Abstracts

We very much look forward to the presentations of our keynote speakers, with abstracts provided below for Professor Bradstock and Associate Professor York.  We will have the abstract for Dr Burrows shortly:

Professor Ross Bradstock (and Dr Owen Price)
Director - Centre for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfires, University of Wollongong.

A tale (mostly) of one city: toward a comprehensive understanding of bushfire risks, present and future

Sydney is the largest city in the nation (circa. 5 million people in the greater region). The city and its accompanying Bioregion is endowed with spectacular natural assets, including rugged landscapes, picturesque waterways and diverse ecosystems. Fire is part of the furniture, posing both challenges, opportunities and a reminder to the human inhabitants of their interdependence with ecosystems. Exposure of people and property to recurrent fires is relatively high but both the perception and a quantification of the risk of losses is inadequately understood. A similar situation applies to biodiversity and the functioning of ecosystems on which residents directly and indirectly depend. Despite this situation, research progress into this problem has been rapid. Given the state of knowledge, five key conclusions emerge: 1) risks to people and property are low, in quantitative terms, but (paradoxically) are likely to be underestimated by residents; 2) ownership of risk and the responsibility for measures aimed at mitigation is shared; 3) a diversity of fire regimes is ‘hard-wired’ into many local landscapes which may buffer biota and ecosystems against changes; 4) manipulation of fire regimes to mitigate risks is possible but the scope is constrained by costs, benefits and socio-political will; 5) possibilities for change in the future may be surprising. 

Dr Neil Burrows
Senior Principal Research Scientist - Department of Parks and Wildlife, Western Australia

Managing bushfire in the new millennium
The new millennium has brought with it a spate of devastating bushfires across southern Australia; in central and northern Australia, vast tracts of land continue to be blackened by harmful hot fires. Drought and extreme fire weather events attributable to climate change, and the regional buildup of flammable vegetation as a consequence of a reduction in area treated by prescribed burning, are key factors giving rise to mega-fires in southern Australia. The cessation of traditional Aboriginal burning practices across much of central and northern Australia has resulted in significantly altered fire regimes. 

Today, public land managers are required to manage fire for multiple outcomes including reducing the bushfire risk to human communities, conservation and environmental values. While the practice is contentious, prescribed burning is critical for managing flammable fuels to mitigate adverse impacts of bushfires on the things we value. Wise application of prescribed fire is also integral to maintaining biodiversity, ecosystem health and to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change, changing land use and land owner demographics, industrial legacies, population growth, declining resources, opponents to the practice, and onerous risk management and planning procedures have contributed to a decline in prescribed burning.While fire and land managers can do little about climate change, they can work with the broader community to reverse the declining trend in land treated with prescribed fire. This requires integration of scientific and traditional knowledge, practical experience, community engagement and support, and political and organisational commitment to adaptive management in a changing world. 

Associate Professor Alan York
Head - Fire & Biodiversity Research Program, University of Melbourne.     

Fire, Landscape Pattern and Biodiversity

In fire-prone ecosystems, fire, an agent of disturbance, can influence landscape heterogeneity at a range of spatial scales.  This heterogeneity varies not only over space, but with time, as successive disturbance events reshape landscape pattern.  The range of post-disturbance states and their spatial configuration is expressed as a landscape ‘mosaic’; the nature of which in both space and time is thought to have a substantial influence on biodiversity.  Because different species have different resource requirements, heterogeneous areas should support a more diverse biota than homogeneous ones, leading to a positive relationship between environmental heterogeneity and species diversity.  Heterogenous, species-rich landscapes should be more resilient to disturbances such as fire.

In 2009, following the large and significant 2003 and 2006/7 bushfires, the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment, concerned that such extensive fires were reducing landscape heterogeneity, initiated a Landscape Mosaic Burning (LMB) program to increase the amount of planned fire in the landscape.  It was anticipated that this ‘mosaic burning’ undertaken at a landscape scale would help reduce the size, severity and impact of large-scale fire events, and maintain healthy and resilient ecosystems.  The LMB program was accompanied by a substantial investment in research with partner institutions.  Projects investigated aspects of fire refuges in the Central Highlands, and fire mosaics in East Gippsland and the Otway Ranges.  

Outputs from our LMB research program in the Otways have improved understanding of relationships between biodiversity and landscape heterogeneity, identified strengths and weaknesses of using post-fire growth stages as surrogates for fauna habitat and helped refine our understanding of how other aspects of the fire regime and landscape features influence animal populations.  In this presentation I summarise our research, highlighting what we have learnt, knowledge uptake by fire managers, and where we are currently going to refine current and evolving strategies.