How will the research help?
This project aims to improve conservation outcomes for threatened plant species and ecological systems by refining fire regime management.
It will achieve this through:
Such tailoring, while extremely challenging due to the complex social and economic trade-offs, is crucial for the long-term persistence of many species.
The project will also synthesise all relevant existing studies and knowledge and undertake well-replicated field experiments.
On-ground field trials will strengthen links between researchers and agency fire management staff in three states. Improved fire planning and management will enhance conservation outcomes.
Overall, the project will deliver a detailed understanding of the mechanisms of the decline of threatened species and new strategies for reducing the impact of fire on them.
These outcomes will extend to many species beyond the listed threatened species targeted and directly benefiting from the field trials.
What research activities are being undertaken?
We will evaluate and prioritise a set of candidate species, collate existing information and design experiments in the field to quantify important life-history traits and population characteristics that affect fire response.
The experiments in the field and lab will be coordinated with fire management plans, where possible. Current projects include assessment of threatened Pomaderris species and the fire ecology of the threatened Boronia keysii and rare B. rivularis. In addition to measuring recruitment rates and fire response, the experiments will also address variation in responses to fire severity and season, and a range of post-fire rainfall conditions.
In the analysis and modelling phase, the research team will explore competing hypotheses about the interaction between fire regimes and other threats, such as habitat fragmentation, herbivore activity, disease and climate change, and identify climate refuges.
Finally, we will develop species-specific management strategies. We will use the compiled and synthesised data to verify preliminary fire regime thresholds. The project will also produce recommendations for public policy on fire management developed in collaboration with staff of threatened species and fire management authorities.
Who is involved?
The project is being led by the University of New South Wales in close cooperation with the University of Melbourne. Contributions and collaborations will come from state agencies: NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Australian National Botanic Gardens, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, SE Queensland Fire & Biodiversity Consortium, The Australian Botanic Gardens Mount Annan, and WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, as well as from staff of threatened species and fire management authorities.
Where is the research happening?
The research will combine evidence and data from fire ecology and threatened plant projects from across the country. New field experiments are underway in Queensland and New South Wales.
When is the research happening?
The project will run for five years from 2015 to 2020.
Top image: Como fire May 2018. Photo: Mark Ooi