Predicting threatened species responses to fuel reduction for asset protection
Fuel reduction in bushland adjacent to urban development is an important component of bushfire management to protect lives and properties. In many urban areas, the objective of property protection by fuel reduction conflicts with biodiversity management objectives. Conserving threatened species in such situations will require information on spatial distributions of these species in the landscape. We used GIS modelling to predict the likely impacts of strategic fire advantage zones (SFAZs) on two threatened species in the Shoalhaven region of NSW: the eastern bristlebird and the glossy black cockatoo. We used current knowledge of the association between these animals and vegetation to predict habitat suitability, overlaid residential areas on this habitat-suitability map, and then applied buffers around the residential areas to represent minimum (250 m) and maximum (450 m) SFAZs scenarios. For eastern bristlebirds, 4,000 ha of suitable habitat occurred in the study area, and nearly 5% of this would become unsuitable with 450 m SFAZs. For the cockatoos, approximately 9% of 30,000 ha of suitable habitat would be altered with 450 m SFAZs. The GIS models provide the information needed for more creative bushfire mitigation activities that could deliver both the conservation of endangered species and protection of human assets.
Whelan, R. J., Collins, L. & Loemker, R. (2009). Predicting threatened species responses to fuel reduction for asset protection. Royal Society of Queensland. Proceedings, 115 77-83.