Publication Details

Whelan, R. J. (2009). The ecology of fire: developments since 1995 and outstanding questions. Royal Society of Queensland. Proceedings, 115 59-68.


A great deal is already known about fire ecology in Australia, because careful observation of fire effects have been informing fire management for many thousands of years and scientific study of fire ecology has been going on for over a century, especially in the fields of forestry, evolutionary ecology, and land management. In this paper, I review some of the key questions of fire ecology identified in The Ecology of Fire (1995) for which I perceive there is a need for an expanded research effort and for better communication to politicians, policy makers, land managers, and the public at large. These include (i) better knowledge of fire history in particular areas, (ii) a more sophisticated understanding of what is meant by 'fire mosaic' and how different spatial patterns of fire might affect ecological processes, (iii) developing tools for predicting ecological responses to particular fire regimes, and (iv) the more comprehensive use of experimental and adaptive management at a landscape scale, given that environmental conditions will always be changing and ecological knowledge will never be complete.