The relative importance of fine-scale fuel mosaics on reducing fire risk in south-west Tasmania, Australia.
In many landscapes, an important fire management objective is to reduce the negative impacts from unplanned fires on people, property and ecological values. In Australia, there exists an inherent assumption that high spatial variability in fire ages and hence fuel loads will have negative effects on both the incidence and spread of subsequent fires, and will enhance ecological values. A recent study using the process-based computer simulation model FIRESCAPE-SWTAS predicted several relationships between prescribed burn treatment levels and spatial patterning and management objectives in south-west Tasmania, Australia. The present study extended this investigation to additionally explore the effects of prescribed burning treatment unit size on unplanned fire incidence and area burned both in the general landscape and specifically in fire-intolerant vegetation. Simulation results suggest that treatment level had the greatest influence on modifying fire effects, whereas treatment unit size had the least effect. The model predicted that all three parameters interacted to determine the mean annual area burnt by unplanned fires. In fire-intolerant vegetation, treatment unit size did not influence the incidence of unplanned fires and the area burnt by unplanned fires in these communities. Where significant differences were evident, fire risk was reduced by higher treatment levels, deterministic spatial patterns of burning units, and smaller burning unit sizes.