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animal prevention of fires

It's time to stop lighting fires - Article by Bob McDonald, Naturalist

This very widely and deeply researched article talks about the role of Australian native animals in protecting forests from fire and reviews the evidence for prescribed burns, criticising Bill Gammage's research on a number of grounds and noting misconceptions about Aboriginal fire management. "Research by the CSIRO published since 1994 has shown that there is a group of around 1000 species of moths called oecophorids whose caterpillars occur at densities of up to 400 per square metre and eat dead leaf litter. These insects are killed by fire and take some years to come back - leaving the bush accumulating leaf litter. With frequent fires they can be lost. Termites consume vast amounts of dead timber Australia wide and in long unburned forests they are particularly dense with huge mounds in southern Australia too but their role in fuel reduction remains unstudied! Cockroaches and a wide range of beetle species and their larvae do the same. Recent research has identified Lyrebirds and Mallee Fowl as playing key roles in fuel reduction, composting litter and twigs in vast amounts reducing fuel loads by tonnes by per year per bird. All these insects, birds and animals that reduce fuel loads are diminished or lost to fire. Fungi are known to be major consumers of dead timber - but their role in fuel reduction is yet to be researched and the role of wallabies, wombats and especially potoroos in distributing fungi, though it is obviously significant, remains unstudied.

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