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ABARES insights into Australia’s forest fires

Media Release 27 May 2020

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) today released its insights article: Stocktake of Fire in Australia’s forests, 2011 to 2016.

Principal Forest Scientist Dr Steve Read, who is also Acting Assistant Secretary of Biosecurity, Fisheries, Forestry and Land at ABARES, said the stocktake covers where and how often fire occurred in forests, the land tenures and forest types on which the fire occurred, and whether the fire was planned or unplanned.

“Fire is an important ecological driver in most Australian forests, whether the tall moist forests of south-eastern and south-western Australia or the woodlands of northern Australia,” Dr Read said.

“It influences the nature of entire forest ecosystems, including the presence or absence of individual species within these ecosystems, and is essential to ongoing ecosystem health and renewal.

“Fire can be both a destructive and a creative force, so understanding different fire regimes is important in deciding the optimal approach to fire management in different climatic regions, forest types, and in relation to impacts on people.

“The fire regime, that is, the frequency, intensity, seasonality and spatial pattern of fire, determines both the short-term and the long-term impacts of fire on forests.

“There is a distinct north-south divide in the fire regime experienced by Australia’s forests.

“Unplanned fires in forest in northern Australia are more frequent and occur over greater areas. Planned fire in northern Australia is also extensive, and generally of lower intensity and earlier in the dry season than unplanned fire.

“Unplanned fires in forests in southern Australia are less frequent than in northern Australia, but can be much more intense when they occur, and in some years (such as 2019–20) cover large areas. Planned fire in southern Australia generally occurs in small, discrete areas.

“There are different environmental and social impacts resulting from fires in forests in northern and southern Australia, and different management challenges.”

Read the ABARES Insights: Stocktake of Fire in Australia’s forests, 2011 to 2016 here: