Thursday, July 28, 2011

The importance of fire

Here in Australia much of our vegetation is dependent on fire. I'm sure those of you who grew up here in Australia have heard of this, but what does it mean? Basically, the plants in Australia have evolved over a long time (for at least the last 40,000 years) in conjunction with fire. These fire events are both natural, as a result of lighting strikes, and as a result of human modification of the environment, with Aboriginal people using fire as a land management strategy.

What does this co-evolution of our Australian flora and fire mean for our vegetation communities in these modern times? Some our most popular native species, such as banksias and hakeas, are dependent on fire to produce the next generation. Such species must  experience a fire event before they will release seed from their seed pods. Other plants have adaptive 'behaviours' that assist them to survive in a fire event. For example, eucalypts produce epicormic growth (growth from under the bark which is stimulated when there is significant damage to the crown or the top of the tree) and these are then utilised as a survival technique after a fire event allowing the plant to continue photosynthesizing and obtaining energy and food. Fire in itself is also a way for the environment to manage fuel loads. More frequent and less intense fire events control fuel loads and reduce the risk of high temperatures and severe fires that we have witnessed and experienced in the southern areas of Australia in recent years.

Overall, it is therefore important to recognise the usefulness of fire and the importance of fire to some of the vegetation communities here in Australia. When well managed, undertaken in appropriate conditions and implemented in the right place fire is a useful land management tool. Pin It

No comments:

Post a Comment