The Forest Fire Severity & Biodiversity Forum held in Bairnsdale on 12 March drew a good crowd of about 70. The two speakers were Dr Chris Taylor from Melbourne University and Phil Ingamells of the Victorian Nation Parks Association (VNPA).
Dr Taylor’s studies centred on how Mountain Ash plots of various ages responded to the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires. The Mountain Ash is a fire sensitive species and because of the height of the forest it is difficult for a fire under most conditions to scorch the crown. Taylor’s studies found that regrowth stands of between 5 and 40 years old were highly susceptible to crown fires in extreme weather conditions. This has implications for the logging industry. Is logging increasing the intensity of severe fires? Taylor concluded by noting that the frequency of both severe fires and the disturbance of the bush of the bush had greatly increased and that management must adapt to the changed circumstances.
Phil Ingamells spoke of the role of the VNPA and emphasized that the two priorities of the Black Saturday Royal Commission were the preservation of life and property and secondly the preservation of the environment with which he and the VNPA concur. He questioned the value of the 5% target of control burning and pointed out that this has been achieved only once in the history of controlled burning. Having a set target meant that a lot of country that did not need burning was burnt and a lot of country was burnt more frequently than it should. The loss of hollow trees for a diversity of habitats was also emphasized. Ingamells made a number of suggestions with regards control burning and fire fighting including control burning close to communities and purchasing a number of “Elvis” fire fighting helicopters to station across the state. He finally mentioned the affect climate change was having on fire severity and frequency. “The affects of climate change” he stated “are perilous. There is more fire in the landscape now than there has been for the last 50,000 years”.