Fuel load re­duc­tion tri­als power ahead

Australian Forests and Timber - - Front Page - By Se­na­tor Anne Rus­ton As­sis­tant Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture and Wa­ter Re­sources

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.

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