Savanna Burning: Understanding and using fire in northern
A practical guide and information resource for managing
fire in Australia's tropical savannas. More than 40
Hard copies have been sold out. You can download pdfs for
all chapters at right.
Every year thousands of square kilometres of grasslands in
northern Australia go up in flames and smoke. Is it wanton
destruction or part of the natural ecosystem of tropical
Savanna Burning: Understanding and Using Fire in Northern
Australia , is a readable and well-illustrated book—in
full colour—that tries to answer that question by providing
the latest information on fire to managers of pastoral, Aboriginal
and conservation lands, ecologists and the general public.
It explores the benefits and damage caused by fire; how land
managers can use fire more effectively to maintain natural
resources, and the future pressures arising from global warming and
carbon trading. It also asks how current fire patterns change
ecosystems developed under traditional Aboriginal burning. To help
you see which parts of the book might be most useful the chapters
are outlined below.
Chapter 1: Introduction
Here we describe fire management issues that need to be addressed
in northern Australia and introduce the people needed to help solve
Chapter 2: Savanna landscapes
Savanna Landscapes describes the physical environment of the
tropical savannas and shows how the different landscapes within the
savannas have been shaped by climate, geology and soils. Despite
this variation, all savanna landscapes share similar fire issues.
Present-day land use and fire patterns are in turn shaped by the
landscapes and climate of the north.
Chapter 3: Savanna fire regimes
This chapter describes different types of fire in the tropical
savannas and introduces the concept of fire ‘regimes’.
It describes the characteristics of these fire regimes and how they
are affected by weather and vegetation—or ‘fuel’.
This chapter shows how different fire regimes are used by different
land users for various tasks in the landscape. It briefly describes
current problems with present fire regimes and how they affect
conservation, production and culture.
Chapter 4: Effects of fire in the landscape
This chapter details the effects of current fire regimes on the
landscape—how current fire patterns are impacting on
activities and values ranging from pastoralism to traditional
practices to biodiversity. These include how fire patterns affect
the ratio of trees to shrubs; of annual to perennial grasses;
fire-sensitive plant species; and their impact on various native
animals and air and water quality.
Chapter 5: Using fire in savanna management
This shows how better fire management can overcome many of the
problems described in Chapter 4. Fire-management techniques are
described for Aboriginal and pastoral land and for managing
biodiversity. It is explained, for example, which burning regimes
can be used to enhance pasture vigour; control weeds; provide
habitat for native animals and protect against wildfires.
Chapter 6: Burning operations
Once you know what fire regimes are needed,
‘Operations’ describes how to put that knowledge into
practice. It describes when and where to light fires for particular
tasks; what ignition techniques can be used and how to plan for
burning. The construction of firebreaks is detailed. The
legislation that governs the lighting of fire in WA, NT and Qld is
Chapter 7: Monitoring fire regimes
How do you know that fire management is working? You need to be
able to monitor the effects of fire on the landscape and then, if
necessary, use these results to change existing fire management.
Monitoring techniques involving plots, aerial photography and
satellite remote sensing are described. The complex language and
high technology of satellite monitoring is explained.
Chapter 8: Global trends and fire management
Finally, we look to the future. This chapter examines how fire
management will be affected by global and local trends including
greenhouse issues and carbon trading, globalisation of markets, new
laws covering biodiversity and air quality, and the impact of
Native Title legislation.