Centre for Ecosystem Management/ School of Science
This study investigates the fire regime for the arid Carnarvon Basin region of Western Australia using remotely sensed imagery. A fire history database was constructed from satellite images to characterise the general fire regime and determine any effect of vegetation types and pre-fire weather and climate. The study area was divided into two sections (northern and southern) due to their inherently different vegetation and climate. A total of 23.8% (15,646 km2) of the study area was burnt during the 39-year study period. Heathland vegetation (54%) burnt the most extensively in the southern study area, and hummock grasslands (68%) in the northern. A single, unusually large fire in 2012 followed exceptional rains in the previous 12 months and accounted for 55% of the total burnt area. This fire burnt mainly through Acacia shrublands and woodlands rather than hummock grasslands, as normally experienced in the northern study area. Antecedent rainfall and fire weather were found to be the main meteorological factors driving fire size. Both study areas showed a moderate to strong correlation between fire size and increased pre-fire rainfall in the year preceding the fire. Predicted future changes in climate may lead to more frequent and higher intensity fires.
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