A flexible framework for cost-effective fire management

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Global Environmental Change


Fire management aims to change fire regimes. However, the challenge is to provide the optimal balance between the mitigation of risks to life and property, while ensuring a healthy environment and the protection of other key values in any given landscape. Incorporating cost-effectiveness and climate change impacts magnifies this task. We present an objective framework for quantitative comparison of the risk mitigation potential of alternative fuel treatment scenarios in south-eastern Australia. There is no single optimal strategy for all values in a given region, nor for any individual value in all regions. Trade-offs are required and cost-effectiveness is highly sensitive to the addition of management values. Climate change is likely to decrease prescribed burning effectiveness and increase total costs, therefore a rethink of best practice is required. Our study highlights the need for flexibility in the development and implementation of fire management strategies, which is something that risk-based approaches can provide. We discuss prospects of extending our framework to values for which we currently lack robust quantitative information and issues of compatibility with Aboriginal cultural burning and by implication other approaches that do not stem from within the prevailing fire management paradigm.

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