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Is there an inherent conflict in managing fire for people and conservation?

P. D. BentleyA and T. D. PenmanA,B

ASchool of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences, University of Melbourne, Creswick, Vic. 3363, Australia.

BCorresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT

Wildfires are a natural disturbance in many ecosystems, creating challenges for land management agencies who need to simultaneously reduce risk to people and maintain ecological values. Here we use the PHOENIX RapidFire fire behaviour simulator to compare fuel treatment strategies that meet the twin objectives of reducing wildfire risk to human settlements and a fire sensitive endangered species, the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) in south-eastern Australia. The local koala population is in decline and a conservation management plan is being prepared to exclude wildfire fora 10 year period to assist with population recovery. Twelve scenarios developed by the land management agencies were compared using four indicators: wildfire size; burn probability; impact from exposure to fire; and treatment cost. Compared with the current risk setting, three treatment scenarios were found to reduce wildfire size and burn probability concurrently to both people and koalas. These strategies worked by increasing the landscape area treated, which came with increased financial cost. However, the impact from exposure to fire for both property and koala habitat remains high. Additional complementary strategies beyond landscape fuel reductions are needed to reduce impact from exposure in the event of a wildfire.

 

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