top of page
Publications page.jpg

Self-thinning forest understoreys reduce wildfire risk, even in a warming climate

Philip J Zylstra, S Don Bradshaw, David B Lindenmayer, 2022

A recently published study conducted by Philip Zylstra, David Lindemayer and Don Bradshaw in the SW of WA found that over time, ‘some forests “thin” themselves and become less likely to burn – and hazard-reduction burning disrupts this process’.

‘Prior to colonisation…the tall forests with the heaviest fuel loads were deliberately left unburned [Pers. Comms Dr Wayne Webb, Pibulmun elder, 24 September 2021, (Pedro 2017 )], so that fire scars on karri were extremely rare prior to 1850, despite their ready scarring by modern prescribed burns (Rayner 1992 )’.

Download the paper here

Health impacts of prescribed burn-offs significant but not well appreciated

Cate Swannell, 20 April 2020

'WHILE prescribed burning of landscapes reduces the risk of bushfires, the health impacts are not widely appreciated and need to be better incorporated into the risk management of burn-off activities....'

“The estimated smoke-related costs of wildfires were highest in 2012 ($24.8 million); in many years, prescribed fires often accounted for most health-related costs, peaking in 2017 ($24.1 million).”

Online article here

Little evidence for fire-adapted plant traits in Mediterranean climate regions

S. Don Bradshaw, Kingsley W. Dixon, Stephen D. Hopper, Hans Lambers & Shane R. Turner, 2010

As climate change increases vegetation combustibility, humans are impacted by wildfires through loss of lives and property, leading to an increased emphasis on pre- scribed burning practices to reduce hazards. A key and pervading concept accepted by most environmental managers is that combustible ecosystems have traditionally burnt because plants are fire adapted.

In this opinion article, we explore the concept of plant traits adapted to fire in Mediterranean climates. In the light of major threats to biodiversity conservation, we recommend caution in deliberately increasing fire frequencies if ecosystem degradation and plant extinctions are to be averted as a result of the practice.

Download the paper here

All bets are off’: Fire weather trumps forestry, prescribed burning

Peter Hannam, May 11, 2021, Sydney Morning Herald

The Kilmore fire during Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires in 2009... showed intact forests slowed the advance of the blaze even during extreme weather during that event.

“Right at its peak, the massive crown fire encountered the old, never-logged mountain ash on Mount Disappointment and dropped down to a slow-spreading surface fire,” Professor Zylstra said.

“Unlogged, long-unburnt forest was the single greatest impediment in the run of that fire, holding its ground against all spatial and weather drivers,” he said.

Online article here

The case against prescribed burning to fight bushfires 

Karen Middleton, 16 July 2022, The Saturday Paper, Sydney Morning Herald

Scientists hope the belated listing of fires as a threat to forest species can stop the destructive use of hazard-reduction burning.

‘It is apparent that the most extreme fire season coincided with the greatest amount of prescribed burning.’

‘We’ve been undermining the natural processes that made forest resistant to fire,’ says fire behaviour scientist Philip Zylstra, an adjunct associate professor at both Curtin University and the University of Wollongong. ‘We’ve kind of been breaking the system.’

Online article here

bottom of page