Delivery organisation: Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC)
Overview: To stop disruptive fire patterns in the Kimberley. EcoFire is a fire management program running in the Kimberley, that has successfully brought people together to stop disruptive wildfires since 2007. Following the wet season (December to April), grass grows prolifically and then cures in the dry season, becoming highly flammable material that is easily ignited by people and lightening. Ecofire involves indigenous communities, pastoralists and private conservation organisations managing 11 properties, covering three million hectares, in the burn planning, delivery and measuring its success. Prescribed burning is designed to create a mosaic of burnt and unburnt areas across the landscape, creating a patchwork of fuel loads of different ages.
Outcomes: Through a prescribed burning program, fires have been dramatically shifted from late to early in the dry season, and the possibility for large scale, uncontrolled burns have been reduced. Dense grasslands are maintained and fire sensitive vegetation, which is important habitat for a number of threatened species, are protected. These fire pattern changes have been matched by improvements in key biodiversity indicators that range from soil surface condition metrics, to Gouldian Finches, small mammals, and riparian birds.
A follow on project from this was ‘Cattle Land and Fire’ (CALF) which investigated how cattle interact with early season burn practices when the resulting regrowth is nearing completion. AWS and CSIRO worked together tracking GPS collars on cattle to see how they reacted to fires. Results showed cattle reluctant to travel far (more than 2km) from established water points, and that optimally, country should be spelled (rested from grazing) for a wet season to recover from a burn.
Investment: Rangelands NRM began working with AWC through funding from Caring for our Country (CfoC) in 2007. CALF was run through the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme Innovation Fund.
“There is clearly an interaction between fire and herbivores on vegetation. We have been able to show that by changing burning patterns, mammal populations increase but only if you are managing introduced herbivores at the same time.” Dr Sarah Legge
Articles about Ecofire in the Rangelands NRM eNews