Jury still out on right approach to fuel reduction burning

The effectiveness of fuel reduction burning varies greatly by region and researchers and practitioners continue to disagree about optimum strategies.

A Parliamentary Library research paper published on 28 October also suggests there are significant knowledge gaps about fuel reduction burning, especially regarding its long-term effects.

“Recent fuel reduction burns will modify fire behaviour even under extreme or catastrophic conditions, but under such circumstances, this modification may not be strong enough to assist fire suppression efforts,” the paper concludes.

“However, it may have a measurable impact upon fire severity, and reduce ecological damage.”

The paper is an update of a 2002 Parliamentary Library publication incorporating the findings of recent research and the numerous inquiries published since then.

“Fuel reduction burning remains an effective component of broader strategies to reduce bushfire damage, but it is not a panacea,” the paper advises.

“The environmental effects of fuel reduction burning are also complex: no single fire regime suits all ecological communities and any impacts from fuel reduction burning should be weighed against the potential impacts of future bushfires.

“[Parks and nature reserve] Managers must also consider the long-term effects of fuel reduction burning and the increasing challenges posed by climate change,” the authors suggest.