Australian Forests and Timber

Fuel load reduction trials power ahead

- 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.
Recording tree diameter class and timing during mechanical treatment, NSW trial site.
 ??  ?? Mechanical only treatment in Cann River, VIC - before and after treatment
Mechanical only treatment in Cann River, VIC - before and after treatment
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 ??  ?? ■ Northern Brown Bandicoot in baited camera trap during the pre-treatment biodiversi­ty assessment, NSW trial site.
■ Northern Brown Bandicoot in baited camera trap during the pre-treatment biodiversi­ty assessment, NSW trial site.

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