Fire science vs political science
Science is clearly not a part of the Brumby government’s justification to triple burns across the state to almost 400,000 ha, or 1/20th of public land a year. Despite the ENRC inquiry quoting scientific papers, Jenny Barnett from the VNPA, discovered that these papers didn’t back up calls for increased burning at all. They in fact cite computer simulations from the US and Tasmania’s Button-grass Plains. They also misquote fire scientists to suit their own agenda.
An article by Dr Michael Clarke from Latrobe University in Wildlife Research (Vol. 35 Issue 5) says that plant survival does not mean animals also survive. Increased predation and loss of food and shelter could make animals locally extinct. He also suggests that land managers should never assume that burning an over abundant older age class will create a younger age class. Climatic effects can impact on regeneration causing a gap in age class.
Dr Clarke agrees that there needs to be research beyond just plants, to include fungi, invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals. Managing the forest without this information is like farming without knowledge of the soil or weather.
VNPA’s Parkwatch Sept ’08/Jill