Savanna burning has a long history in Australia, with Aboriginal use and management stretching back for millennia. Across northern Australia, it is a landscape-scale activity that affects vegetation and biodiversity. Many factors affect the frequency and timing of burning including land tenure (e.g. protected areas, pastoral, Indigenous land) and related management objectives (e.g. biodiversity, emissions trading, grazing, weed management, fire prevention). The various fire management aspirations for Indigenous land have been well described in the literature and continue to be the focus of discussion at annual north Australia savanna fire forums.
The impact of different fire regimes on biodiversity is of global interest and is a common aim of many savanna fire management programs. This project aimed to review the current burning regimes in northern Australia and the existing understanding of their relationship to biodiversity conservation. A secondary aim of the project was to identify pathways and opportunities for monitoring activities and future research which can help to inform how different fire regimes can benefit biodiversity.
There are some excellent published long-term systematic biodiversity surveys in the Northern Territory – particularly in Kakadu and Nitmiluk national parks – and several large-scale ongoing monitoring programs measuring different elements of biodiversity in partnership with land holders (e.g. Karrkad Kanjdji Trust). These monitoring programs will become important future studies to better understand the responses of biodiversity to different fire management practices applied across the region.
This project was lead by Justin Perry, with assistance from Helen Murphy, Anna Richards, Eric Vanderduys (CSIRO), Graeme Gillespie, John Patykowski (NTG), Samantha Setterfield, Michael Douglas (UWA) and numerous other biodiversity and fire experts.