Issue 1
Monday, 04 March 2019
Charles Darwin University
E-news
Research Fellow at Charles Darwin University’s Darwin Centre for Bushfire Research, Dr Andrew Edwards and the locations of recent fires across Arnhem Land
Research Fellow at Charles Darwin University’s Darwin Centre for Bushfire Research, Dr Andrew Edwards and the locations of recent fires across Arnhem Land

Bushfire management new Top End growth industry

By Jon Taylor

Reducing carbon emissions from bushfires is creating empowerment and employment across Northern Australia.

Bushfire scientists and land managers from across the top of Northern Australia gathered at CDU recently to discuss how wildfire management can become a greater source of jobs in remote areas while still recognising the beneficial role fire can play in land management.

Under the Australian Government’s Carbon Farming Initiative landowners who reduce carbon emissions by reducing wildfires earn money to undertake further fire management.

It’s estimated that $30 million across the Territory was earnt during the last year through fire management under the scheme, nearly half in Arnhem Land alone.

Research Fellow at Charles Darwin University’s Darwin Centre for Bushfire Research, Dr Andrew Edwards said the forum discussed the similarities between land management practice used by generations of Indigenous people and the global and national need to reduce carbon emissions.

“A significant proportion of the NT’s carbon emissions come from bushfires in the Top End. Combining science with traditional Indigenous knowledge we can reduce the emissions whilst gaining benefits from fire for the natural environment,” Dr Edwards said.

“With Carbon Farming there is an incentive to properly manage fire. This can be through firebreaks, combatting unexpected fires and burning off in a manner that yields environmental benefits without adversely impacting on vegetation and wildlife.

“Those management strategies create jobs, particularly for Indigenous land managers, increasing land management capacity and funding equipment and training that builds capacity to fight or mitigate wildfires through strategic prescribed burning,” he said.

Technology is also playing an important role with satellite imagery providing near instantaneous warnings of new fire outbreaks, providing fire managers with the information they need to deal with wild fire by building firebreaks or sending teams to contain it.

“This satellite imagery is online, updated almost hourly and is used by rangers and landowners daily during the fire season,” Dr Edwards said.

“Plans can be made in terms of the best strategic location for firebreaks in the early part of the fire season; wildfires can be identified and teams sent out to suppress them using the mapping to find gaps in the firebreaks and the best place to fight the fire or back burn to stop it.

“Being able to see the full extent of a fire means you can direct resources in the most effective manner. This is really hard to do from ground level and even harder in rugged areas,” he said.

The North Australian Savanna Fire and Carbon Forum combined the experience on the ground and the latest scientific knowledge.

“Bushfire management is a great example of practical science,” Dr Edwards said.

“Through fire behaviour modelling and the satellite imagery, scientists are giving people on the ground, most often hundreds of kilometres away, the ability to respond to a fire that might be threatening a house, a community, a sacred site or any other important resource.

“Now with Carbon Farming, ranger groups and the like have increased capacity and resources to respond to these fires where they are burning in culturally or ecologically sensitive areas.

“This is a vast improvement for all aspects of the environment from the large scale, uncontrolled non-strategic burning that was occurring across the Top End only 10 years ago,” he said.