The results of research into the effects of fire on
different types of bushland are an important influence on DELWP's planned
The information helps DELWP understand the histories and
life cycles of native plants and animals, the ways different plants and animals
fit into their environment, and how fire affects them.
This information, combined with other local knowledge, helps
DELWP decide where and when to carry out planned burns, and how to reduce the
impact of burns on the bushland.
Impacts on trees and plants
DELWP carries out many planned burns specifically to
maintain the health of plants and animals. These burns are called ecological
burns. However when DELWP carries out burns to reduce fuel levels, the impact
of the burn on plants is an important consideration.
Copying the cycle of fire
When planning burns to reduce fuel, DELWP aims to copy the
natural cycles of fire that suit the plants and animals in a particular area.
Planned burns in these areas are usually patchy, with parts of the area
remaining unburnt. The burns are not as hot as bushfires, so most native plants
are able to tolerate the heat.
Occasionally an unhealthy tree may die after a fire or
planned burn. However, a small number of dead trees in a forest is normal and
these trees become important habitat for some animals, reptiles and insects.
Fire survival features
Over thousands of years many native trees and plants in
Victoria's bushland have developed ways to survive fire.
By the time native trees reach maturity, they have usually
lived through more than one bushfire. In the first few years of their lives,
they gradually develop features that help them live on after a fire. A gum tree
does this by creating a swollen mass of buds just beneath the soil. If a fire
damages the tree, the buds quickly re-shoot and grow.
Protecting fire-sensitive plants
While most native plants need fire to remain healthy, fire
can harm some plants, for example those that grow in alpine and rainforest
areas where fires are extremely rare. DELWP may leave long gaps between burns
or may exclude burns entirely from these areas.
A number of plants, including threatened species, have very
specific fire needs. DELWP takes special consideration of these plants or plant
populations when developing burn plans, and will burn more or less frequently
to find an appropriate balance.
Impacts on animals
As native plants have adapted to survive fire, so most
native animals have developed ways to live through bushfire or re-populate
afterwards. However, some animals are sensitive to fire.
DELWP and its partner organisations carry out research to
understand the needs of animals in different types of bushland and the effect
of fire on animals and their habitat. DELWP uses this information when planning
and carrying out a burn.
Lighting the burn
The way DELWP lights a planned burn can reduce the risk to
native animals. Lighting a burn slowly and working from one end of the burn
area to the other prevents animals from being boxed in and gives them time to
move away from the area.
Time to move away
Because the fire in a planned burn is not as hot as a
bushfire, the flames are low and the fire moves slowly. This gives birds and
other animals a chance to move into the treetops or underground, or to move
away from burning areas. Some larger animals, such as kangaroos, can jump low
flames and move into already burnt areas.
During a planned burn some areas are left unburnt. These
areas are known as refuges. Animals can survive in the refuge areas and
gradually return to the burnt areas as the plants recover.