Project: Ecosystem Interaction

Unpacking the importance of active fire management in restoring our heathlands

Irregular autumn burns and bushfires unintentionally promote woody-shrub encroachment, intensify fires, and hinder our ability to conduct low-intensity prescribed burning in Victoria. In the context of increasingly flammable climates and decreasing biodiversity, a new strategy to counter this transition towards more flammable ecosystems and strengthen resilience is imperative. There is mounting evidence that some Victorian shrublands were once graminoid-dominated and managed through Indigenous burning practices prior to European colonization. This implies that fire regimes may shift ecosystems between stable vegetation states, aligning with the “stable-state theory”, a concept overlooked in contemporary Australian fire management.

Using a combination of fieldwork and modelling, I intend to investigate how fire management decisions influence plant community structure, function, and biodiversity values, offering a comprehensive approach to sustainable landscape management with broader application across Victoria. Through four nested chapters, I progressively address landscape-level questions and specific ecological processes, exploring the “why, what and how” of managing landscapes for long-term holistic objectives. I will investigate the ecological and bushfire risk outcome of pursuing various management objectives (the “why”), identify who stands to benefit under these long-term objectives (the “what”) and test the methods for realizing these objectives (the “how”).

Project timeline: 03/2023 – 12/2026

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