Currently in Australia the biodiversity crisis and wildfire risks are in direct opposition to one another. Increased wildfire risks under climate change place pressures on sectors and organisations attempting to revegetate the landscape and increases the likelihood that revegetation investments will be forfeited in the future due to fire. At the same time, managers are attempting to reduce fire risks through a range of management actions including fuel treatments and suppression. Fire breaks are implemented as both a preventative fuel management measure and in active suppression efforts to provide a break in fuel which both slows the fire spread and allows crews to access the fire edge more easily. Implementing fire breaks in the landscape generally involves clearing large corridors of fuel which is both costly and does not benefit biodiversity or carbon objectives. Green firebreaks, which are increasingly used in Europe and the United States, are planted strips of lower-flammability vegetation that are strategically placed in the landscape to reduce fire spread and minimise the risks to people, biodiversity, and assets. The aim of this approach is also to increase ecosystem resilience within fire prone landscapes under climate-shifted fire regimes. This project will identify optimal planting designs which could be used to develop green firebreaks that deliver biodiversity benefits, increase carbon sequestration, and reduce wildfire risks. We will use a combination of Bayesian Network Analysis and Phoenix fire behaviour simulations to identify optimal planting designs and then test the effectiveness of these designs on reducing risks. Our results will inform how Greening Australia, and other stakeholders, implement planting designs in the future, hopefully to deliver a nature-based solution which protects future investments from wildfires.
Project timeline: 12/2021 – 10/2024