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Using fire to manage biodiversity in the paddock

30 Nov 2022 2:57 PM | Alex James (Administrator)

This webinar was recorded in October 2022 with Dr Ken Hodgkinson, a retired CSIRO scientist. Ken and the Landcare group he convenes is seeking effective means of restoring remnant patches of Natural Temperate Grassland, a critically endangered ecosystem of south-east Australia, in urban and peri-urban Canberra. Ken presented the findings of the groups’ fire and mowing research for remnant patches in the Ginninderra Catchment and how these findings apply to managing biodiversity in the paddock.

Watch the webinar

Fire was used by Aboriginal people to manage landscapes over thousands of years. They deliberately and thoughtfully patch-burned country to ensure the local survival of plant and animal species they cared for. They also firestick farmed the natural environment to ensure a ready supply of animal and plant foods. The fire-managed woodland vegetation became ‘open’ with scattered trees and shrubs, ideal for grazing of the domestic livestock brought by colonising farmers.  

In his career as a CSIRO scientist Ken studied for a time the effects of burning semi-arid rangelands. He found fire could profitably be used to improve the composition of grasslands beneath woodland and to reduce unpalatable shrub density thereby benefitting domestic livestock production.

The Native Grassland Restoration Landcare Group found that biennial Autumn burning increased native plant species richness significantly more than Spring burning and mowing. Autumn burning increased plant diversity by ten native species not found in other treatments. Autumn cool burns not only stimulated native plant diversity but also slowly suppressed Chilean Needle Grass and African Lovegrass patches.  Maintaining, and possibly increasing, plant species richness using fire, may also benefit livestock production. Other research has suggested patchy grassland should improve the conservation of native animals, such as lizards, particularly when paddocks are lightly and patchily grazed.

Resources

Ginninderra Landcare Grassland Restoration Project

Small farms and bushfire summary

Cultural Burning Summary

Prescribed burning

Cheney P and Sullivan A (2008). Grassfires: fuel, weather and fire behaviour. CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne. 

Fire management for biodiversity conservation: NSW Department of Planning and Conservation 

Rural Fire Service NSW

Biodiversity Management

Dorrough J, Stol J and McIntyre S (2008). Biodiversity in the Paddock: a Land Managers Guide. Future Farm Industries CRC. 

Stol J and Prober SM (2015). Jewels in the landscape: Managing very high conservation value ground-layers in Box-Gum Grassy Woodlands. www.publications.csiro.au

Stol J, Doerr V, Davies M and Doerr E (2016). Checking for change: A practical guide to checking whether sites newly managed for conservation are on track to improve. www.publications.csiro.au

This event was made possible with funding from the Australian Government through the National Landcare Program. 

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Small Farms Network Capital Region Inc
Bungendore
NSW 2621

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