Fuel load reduction trials power ahead
MECHANICAL ELEMENTS of a trial aimed at improving forest management and reducing bushfire risks are nearing completion, with researchers now preparing for prescribed burns later this year.
The $1.5 million Mechanical Fuel Load Reduction Trials, funded by the Australian Government, will hopefully determine if mechanical fuel reduction is viable in Australia by exploring the practical economic, social and environmental aspects of the method.
It’s used widely in the United States and Canada, but with significantly different types of forest in Australia the trial also aims to determine if it’s a suitable option for our continent.
Separate trials are underway in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia with sites being located in different native forest types. Each site is around 120 hectares comprising three 10ha replicates of each of four treatments: mechanical reduction; mechanical reduction plus prescribed burning; prescribed burning; and a no-treatment control.
Mechanical treatments at each site are almost finished, with researchers getting ready to undertake the prescribed burn treatments in the spring of 2017. Timing will be dependent of weather and the relative availability of local fire management personnel.
The trials are collecting detailed information at each site, including fire hazards, biomass, biodiversity and habitats, machinery movements and costs, and social attitudes to different methods. Much of this work has been completed, and researchers will await the completion of the other treatments before undertaking the posttreatment analysis of the results. The trial results should be available in mid2018.
Anything we can do to reduce bushfire risk in Australia, and the burden on our forest and fire managers come summer time, is a worthy undertaking especially if it improves the bottom line for the forestry industry and the regional communities which rely on it.
Recording tree diameter class and timing during mechanical treatment, NSW trial site.
Mechanical only treatment in Cann River, VIC - before and after treatment
■ Northern Brown Bandicoot in baited camera trap during the pre-treatment biodiversity assessment, NSW trial site.