Fire management at Pungalina-Seven Emu

Fire management at Pungalina-Seven Emu

Wildfires – fires that occur in the late dry season, burning at high intensity across large areas – are a major threat to biodiversity in the Gulf Bioregions.  In the recent history of these Bioregions, extensive late dry season wildfires have been frequent, with very large areas burning every 2 to 3 years, causing widespread population decline in some animal and plant communities.

Fire management at Pungalina-Seven Emu involves prescribed burning in the early dry season (usually April-May) and, if required, fire suppression in the late dry (August – December).  Prescribed burning is delivered by aerial incendiary operations – dropping incendiaries from helicopter – with supplementary ground burning operations. 

Prescribed burning is intended to break-up country, creating a patchwork of fuel loads of different ages.  This limits the spread of any wildfires later in the year (they go out, or can be put out, when they reach country which was burnt in prescribed operations) and, importantly, ensures that the landscape contains patches of vegetation that is old growth (which many animals need for food and shelter).  It also helps in defending the edge of habitat that is fire-sensitive, such as riparian vegetation and rainforest patches.

AWC’s fire management at Pungalina-Seven Emu has substantially changed fire patterns across the properties, reducing the impact of wildfires and operating as a showcase for effective fire management in the region:

  • In 2014, AWC staff flew more than 500 kilometres and dropped more than 3,000 aerial incendiaries as part of prescribed burning operations.
  • The extent of vegetation not subject to a late dry season fire for at least 3 years has increased from 46% to 82%.
  • AWC has increased the extent of “old growth” vegetation and dispersed it more evenly across the landscape, halving the average distance from burnt to unburnt vegetation.