Living in a land of fire

Intergrative commentary
Professor Rob Whelan, University of Wollongong
Professor Peter Kanowski, Australian National University
Dr Malcolm Gill, Australian National University
Dr Alan Andersen, CSIRO Tropical Ecosystems Research Centre
prepared for the 2006 Australian State of the Environment Committee, 2006

Building the knowledge and information base

Better knowledge and information are fundamental to better management of fire in the Australian environment. The Ellis et al. (2004) identified knowledge and information priorities for Australian bushfire mitigation and management:

  • establishing and maintaining a national program of fire regime mapping, which draws on new technologies such as that provided by the Sentinel satellite-based fire mapping system and the Western Australian Department of Land Information AVHRR imagery  (also: firewatch.dli.wa.gov.au/landgate_firewatch_public.asp )
  • establishment of a network of long-term ecological research sites and studies, such as at Jervis Bay; or Kapalga, to monitor the impacts of fire regimes and fire events
  • better characterisation of fire behaviour and ecological responses to fire, to inform land and fire management options
  • better understanding of climate and climate change consequences for fire regimes and impacts
  • establishment and maintenance of a suite of nationally-consistent databases and data products relevant to bushfire and the integration of this information into adaptive-management processes
  • better knowledge of how building design and materials can minimise risks to life and property
  • enhanced understanding of individual and community psychology and social processes relevant to bushfire preparedness and response
  • better understanding of Indigenous Australians’ knowledge and use of fire, and how traditional and modern knowledge and practices might be best integrated to enhance fire management
  • development of a national strategy to build and sustain research capacity, and to share individual and organisational learning.