Burning for Biodiversity

Date posted: 22 October 2012

Two planned prescribed burns on Kangaroo Island will help to encourage regeneration of Mallee bushland.

The prescribed burns will be conducted under the Eastern Plains Fire Trial (EPFT) to increase understanding of the role of fire intensity in regeneration of native vegetation and improve fire management practices.

Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) biodiversity field officer, Dave Dowie, said 40 research burns have been conducted as part of the EPFT since 2008.

“EPFT prescribed burns allow for a better understanding of the role of fire in maintaining ecosystem diversity and health in mallee vegetation around eastern Kangaroo Island, with a particular focus on promoting the regeneration of nationally threatened plants such as Olearia microdisca, Leionema equestre and Beyeria subtecta,” Mr Dowie said.

“While information from the burns is still being collected and analysed the preliminary results indicate that burning areas of long unburnt mallee can promote regeneration that greatly increases plant diversity, including threatened plants.

“Regeneration of plants from the soil seedbank and by resprouting doesn’t appear to be influenced by the timing of the burn, with spring and autumn burns showing similar results,” he said.

“Fires with low intensities, where the canopy remains unscorched, tend to have poorer regeneration, with higher intensity fires generally producing a better result.

“This knowledge, along with the increased skills and experience gained via conducting the burns, is being used to plan and carry out the burns scheduled for this season.”

Mr Dowie said the research was also looking at the influence of other factors including native animal browsing and the pre-burn condition of the site.

He said the next EPTF burn would treat approximately 30 hectares north of Starrs Road in Macgillivray, while an autumn burn of approximately 42 hectares will take place at Barretts Road in Haines.

The EPFT is part of the Kangaroo Island Natural Resources Management Board’s Nationally Threatened Plant Program.

The Eastern Plains Fire Trial is a partnership between the South Australian Country Fire Service, Kangaroo Island Council, Kangaroo Island Natural Resources Management Board, the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources and landholders, and is funded through the Commonwealth Government’s Caring for Our Country program.

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Alex Taylor
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