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Pyrodiversity vs Biodiversity

Fire is a key part of ecosystems in the Mallee. Credit: Peter Teasdale

Fire is a key part of ecosystems in the Mallee. Credit: Peter Teasdale

By Dale Nimmo

New research challenges conventional wisdom that the creation of a diverse mosaic of fire histories benefits biodiversity.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Fire is a part of life in Australia. It can be an agent of destruction and loss, and it can promote regeneration and new life.

While most terrestrial ecosystems in Australia are fire-prone, our understanding of the relationships between fire regimes and the Australian flora and fauna remains limited. Such understanding is critical because inappropriate fire regimes – such as burning too little or too often – have been implicated in the decline and extinction of a range of native species.

A large team of scientists and volunteers have set out to rectify this knowledge gap by undertaking a major study across the Mallee region where Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales meet. What we found challenges prevailing wisdom, and suggests that fire management regimes will need to vary between ecosystems to maintain the widest diversity of species.

The Ecological Role of Fire

Picture a site that has recently burned: the canopy scorched and its dead leaves starting to fall; bare ground where the leaf litter has been consumed by fire; and logs blackened to coal on the ground. What looks like a harsh, uninhabitable landscape can in fact be the preferred habitat for species that like open, structurally simple areas and do not rely on thick vegetation for shelter – burrowing species, for instance. These species will be most common in the recently...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.