Kath Ryan, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development – Kununurra. Email: email@example.com
2023 is shaping up to be a bumper year for pasture growth in the Kimberley region, so it is likely that the risk of wildfires will be high as the country dries out. Fire is integral to northern ecosystems and DPIRD encourages land managers to work together to reduce risks to people, the base resource, their livestock and livelihoods.
Northern Australia Fire Information (NAFI) fire scar data show a decreasing trend in the area burnt during late dry season wildfires across the Kimberley over the last 22 years.
DPIRD Rangelands Science staff used the NAFI reports to determine trends (increase or decrease) in late dry season wildfires for the Kimberley, in preparation for the East Kimberley fire forum held in late 2022. Reports were investigated for the Victoria-Bonaparte bioregion and a polygon drawn over the approximate area of the Kimberley with an average annual rainfall of above 600mm. NAFI fire scar data were plotted for the Victoria-Bonaparte bioregion and the broader area for groups of months relevant to the Kimberley climate (Figure 1).
Figure 1. NAFI fire scar data for the Victoria-Bonaparte bioregion and the broader Kimberley area for groups of months relevant to the Kimberley climate.
There is a decreasing trend in the area burnt by fires during August to October over both the bioregion and the broader Kimberley. This evidence against increased average annual rainfall and, therefore, higher potential fuel load over the same region is consistent with findings of other scientific studies showing a general decrease in the incidence of late dry season average annual rainfall and, therefore, higher potential fuel load over the same wildfire in the Kimberley over the last 20 years. The trend shows that efforts to coordinate burning and reduce the incidence of large-scale wildfires late in the year are having a significant impact.
DPIRD’s “Fire in the WA rangelands” webpage has general principles for fire management of pastures in the Kimberley, Pilbara and Arid Zone and spinifex pastures. There’s also a pastoral remote sensing reporting tool that includes greenness, biomass and bare ground products by pastoral station. These products can be used to help plan and prepare for the fire season ahead.
Managed fire can reduce the risk of wildfires, benefit pasture productivity, be used to influence grazing pressure, and contribute positively to biodiversity values in fire-prone ecosystems.
Sources for more information: