Special Issue "Bushfire in Tasmania"

A special issue of Fire (ISSN 2571-6255).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 December 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Crystal A. Kolden
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Management of Complex Systems Department, School of Engineering, University of California, Merced, 5200 North Lake Rd., Merced, CA 95343, USA
Interests: remote sensing; landscape ecology; socio-ecological and human-environment dimensions of wildfire; fire management; climate change; vulnerability
Dr. Rebecca Harris
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Climate Futures, Discipline of Geography & Spatial Sciences, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Interests: Biodiversity assessment (invertebrate and botanical); biogeography; island ecology; invasion and disturbance ecology; thermal biology; species distribution modelling; microclimatology and application of climate model output
Prof. Dr. David Bowman
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Environmental Change Biology, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Tasmania, Private Bag 55, Hobart TAS 7001, Australia
Interests: fire ecology; pyrogeography; human fire use; landscape ecology; biogeography; wildlife management; fire and soils; vegetation dynamics; flammability; smoke health effects; fire management policy

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Sitting off the southeastern coast of Australia, Tasmania is an island shaped over millennia by fire. It is a biodiversity hotspot, home to multiple endemic taxa and one of the largest temperate wilderness areas in the world, including the UNESCO Tasmanian World Heritage Area. As on mainland Australia, both natural, lightning-ignited bushfires and Aboriginal fire use were key drivers of species evolution and distribution on Tasmania, but contemporary climate change threatens to alter fundamental socioecological processes and relationships with fire.

The 2018–2019 bushfire season was the second-largest on record in Tasmania, with over 205,000 hectares burnt, and followed other recent large bushfire years that have permanently threatened or destroyed relict ecologically and culturally sensitive refuges on the island. This spate of recent fires, including large, destructive bushfires in 2012–2013 and 2015–2016, raises questions about the natural fire regime in Tasmania and how fire activity is being altered by anthropogenic climate change. Formal inquiries at both the state and federal government level have followed in order to address the fire management response during bushfire crises. These types of events and the ensuing response are not unique to Tasmania; rather, Tasmania bushfires are an exemplar for global current and future pyrogeographic shifts, extinctions, and abrupt changes. At the interface of Mediterranean and temperate climates, Tasmania is, to some extent, the canary in the coal mine for fire-induced change.

The goal of this Special Issue is to increase the understanding of the ecological and anthropological underpinnings of bushfire in the state of Tasmania, its sociopolitical, economic, and ecological impacts, its management by the state agencies responsible for it, and the lessons applicable to other fire-prone regions globally. Because of its isolated location and history, Tasmania is an ideal laboratory for testing a variety of research hypotheses related to fire, particularly given the relatively limited management in the expansive wilderness areas. We also welcome studies that assess Tasmania bushfires in the global context or directly compare Tasmania to other regions. We invite submission of articles on any topic related to bushfire in Tasmania, including but not limited to:

  • Case reports documenting observations associated with bushfire events;
  • Meteorological and climatological studies;
  • Social concerns and impacts of bushfire in Tasmania, including smoke impacts, health outcomes, education, mental health and traumatic incident impacts, community recovery and social ties, etc.;
  • Ecological studies of bushfire impacts on flora and fauna, bushfire patterns, vegetation succession and recovery, species of concern;
  • Economic impacts on tourism, forestry, agriculture, Tasmanian government, etc.;
  • Policy responses and implications of the increasing bushfire threat to natural and human systems;
  • Bushfire management in Tasmania;
  • Emission and carbon balance studies;
  • Paleo studies, Aboriginal fire use, historical reconstructions and fire events;
  • Hydrological and geophysical studies of fire effects on watersheds, landslides and other earth movement events, runoff, surface water supply and quality;
  • Remote sensing, geospatial, field data collection, and other methods papers for characterizing Tasmania bushfire;
  • Perspectives or other non-traditional article forms on Tasmanian bushfire

Dr. Crystal A. Kolden
Dr. Rebecca Harris
Prof. David Bowman
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Fire is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Tasmania
  • Australia
  • Mediterranean
  • Paleoendemic
  • Eucalyptus
  • Tasmanian Fire Service
  • Aboriginal fire
  • Wilderness
  • UNESCO World Heritage Area

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Article
Demographic Effects of Severe Fire in Montane Shrubland on Tasmania’s Central Plateau
Fire 2021, 4(3), 32; https://doi.org/10.3390/fire4030032 - 24 Jun 2021
Viewed by 646
Abstract
Australian montane sclerophyll shrubland vegetation is widely considered to be resilient to infrequent severe fire, but this may not be the case in Tasmania. Here, we report on the vegetative and seedling regeneration response of a Tasmanian non-coniferous woody montane shrubland following a [...] Read more.
Australian montane sclerophyll shrubland vegetation is widely considered to be resilient to infrequent severe fire, but this may not be the case in Tasmania. Here, we report on the vegetative and seedling regeneration response of a Tasmanian non-coniferous woody montane shrubland following a severe fire, which burned much of the Great Pine Tier in the Central Plateau Conservation Area during the 2018–2019 fire season when a historically anomalously large area was burned in central Tasmania. Our field survey of a representative area burned by severe crown fire revealed that more than 99% of the shrubland plants were top-killed, with only 5% of the burnt plants resprouting one year following the fire. Such a low resprouting rate means the resilience of the shrubland depends on seedling regeneration from aerial and soil seedbanks or colonization from plants outside the burned area. Woody species’ seedling densities were variable but generally low (25 m2). The low number of resprouters, and reliance on seedlings for recovery, suggest the shrubland may not be as resilient to fire as mainland Australian montane shrubland, particularly given a warming climate and likely increase in fire frequency. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Bushfire in Tasmania)
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Article
River Flows Are a Reliable Index of Forest Fire Risk in the Temperate Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, Australia
Fire 2021, 4(2), 22; https://doi.org/10.3390/fire4020022 - 30 Apr 2021
Viewed by 1028
Abstract
Fire risk can be defined as the probability that a fire will spread across a landscape, that therefore determines the likely area burnt by a wildfire. Reliable monitoring of fire risk is essential for effective landscape management. Compilation of fire risk records enable [...] Read more.
Fire risk can be defined as the probability that a fire will spread across a landscape, that therefore determines the likely area burnt by a wildfire. Reliable monitoring of fire risk is essential for effective landscape management. Compilation of fire risk records enable identification of seasonal and inter-annual patterns and provide a baseline to evaluate the trajectories in response to climate change. Typically, fire risk is estimated from meteorological data. In regions with sparse meteorological station coverage environmental proxies provide important additional data source for estimating past and current fire risk. Here, we use a 60-year record of daily flows (ML day−1 past a fixed-point river gauge) from two rivers (Franklin and Davey) in the remote Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) to characterize seasonal patterns in fire risk in temperate Eucalyptus forests and rainforests. We show that river flows are strongly related to landscape soil moisture estimates derived from down-scaled re-analysis of meteorological data available since 1990. To identify river flow thresholds where forests are likely to burn, we relate river flows to known forest fires that have occurred in the previously defined ecohydrological domains that surround the Franklin and Davey catchments. Our analysis shows that the fire season in the TWWHA is centered on February (70% of all years below the median river flow threshold), with shoulders on December-January and March. Since 1954, forest fire can occur in at least one month for all but four summers in the ecohydrological domain that includes the Franklin catchment, and since 1964 fire could occur in at least one month in every summer in the ecohydrological domain that includes the Davey catchment. Our analysis shows that managers can use river flows as a simple index that indicates landscape-scale forest fire risk in the TWWHA. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Bushfire in Tasmania)
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Article
Indigenous Fire-Managed Landscapes in Southeast Australia during the Holocene—New Insights from the Furneaux Group Islands, Bass Strait
Fire 2021, 4(2), 17; https://doi.org/10.3390/fire4020017 - 29 Mar 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1925
Abstract
Indigenous land use and climate have shaped fire regimes in southeast Australia during the Holocene, although their relative influence remains unclear. The archaeologically attested mid-Holocene decline in land-use intensity on the Furneaux Group islands (FGI) relative to mainland Tasmanian and SE Australia presents [...] Read more.
Indigenous land use and climate have shaped fire regimes in southeast Australia during the Holocene, although their relative influence remains unclear. The archaeologically attested mid-Holocene decline in land-use intensity on the Furneaux Group islands (FGI) relative to mainland Tasmanian and SE Australia presents a natural experiment to identify the roles of climate and anthropogenic land use. We reconstruct two key facets of regional fire regimes, biomass (vegetation) burned (BB) and recurrence rate of fire episodes (RRFE), by using total charcoal influx and charcoal peaks in palaeoecological records, respectively. Our results suggest climate-driven biomass accumulation and dryness-controlled BB across southeast Australia during the Holocene. Insights from the FGI suggest people elevated the recurrence rate of fire episodes through frequent cultural burning during the early Holocene and reduction in recurrent Indigenous cultural burning during the mid–late Holocene led to increases in BB. These results provide long-term evidence of the effectiveness of Indigenous cultural burning in reducing biomass burned and may be effective in stabilizing fire regimes in flammable landscapes in the future. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Bushfire in Tasmania)
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Article
High-Resolution Estimates of Fire Severity—An Evaluation of UAS Image and LiDAR Mapping Approaches on a Sedgeland Forest Boundary in Tasmania, Australia
Fire 2021, 4(1), 14; https://doi.org/10.3390/fire4010014 - 18 Mar 2021
Viewed by 1384
Abstract
With an increase in the frequency and severity of wildfires across the globe and resultant changes to long-established fire regimes, the mapping of fire severity is a vital part of monitoring ecosystem resilience and recovery. The emergence of unoccupied aircraft systems (UAS) and [...] Read more.
With an increase in the frequency and severity of wildfires across the globe and resultant changes to long-established fire regimes, the mapping of fire severity is a vital part of monitoring ecosystem resilience and recovery. The emergence of unoccupied aircraft systems (UAS) and compact sensors (RGB and LiDAR) provide new opportunities to map fire severity. This paper conducts a comparison of metrics derived from UAS Light Detecting and Ranging (LiDAR) point clouds and UAS image based products to classify fire severity. A workflow which derives novel metrics describing vegetation structure and fire severity from UAS remote sensing data is developed that fully utilises the vegetation information available in both data sources. UAS imagery and LiDAR data were captured pre- and post-fire over a 300 m by 300 m study area in Tasmania, Australia. The study area featured a vegetation gradient from sedgeland vegetation (e.g., button grass 0.2m) to forest (e.g., Eucalyptus obliqua and Eucalyptus globulus 50m). To classify the vegetation and fire severity, a comprehensive set of variables describing structural, textural and spectral characteristics were gathered using UAS images and UAS LiDAR datasets. A recursive feature elimination process was used to highlight the subsets of variables to be included in random forest classifiers. The classifier was then used to map vegetation and severity across the study area. The results indicate that UAS LiDAR provided similar overall accuracy to UAS image and combined (UAS LiDAR and UAS image predictor values) data streams to classify vegetation (UAS image: 80.6%; UAS LiDAR: 78.9%; and Combined: 83.1%) and severity in areas of forest (UAS image: 76.6%, UAS LiDAR: 74.5%; and Combined: 78.5%) and areas of sedgeland (UAS image: 72.4%; UAS LiDAR: 75.2%; and Combined: 76.6%). These results indicate that UAS SfM and LiDAR point clouds can be used to assess fire severity at very high spatial resolution. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Bushfire in Tasmania)
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Article
Characterizing Spatial and Temporal Variability of Lightning Activity Associated with Wildfire over Tasmania, Australia
Fire 2021, 4(1), 10; https://doi.org/10.3390/fire4010010 - 02 Mar 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1300
Abstract
Lightning strikes are pervasive, however, their distributions vary both spatially and in time, resulting in a complex pattern of lightning-ignited wildfires. Over the last decades, lightning-ignited wildfires have become an increasing threat in south-east Australia. Lightning in combination with drought conditions preceding the [...] Read more.
Lightning strikes are pervasive, however, their distributions vary both spatially and in time, resulting in a complex pattern of lightning-ignited wildfires. Over the last decades, lightning-ignited wildfires have become an increasing threat in south-east Australia. Lightning in combination with drought conditions preceding the fire season can increase probability of sustained ignitions. In this study, we investigate spatial and seasonal patterns in cloud-to-ground lightning strikes in the island state of Tasmania using data from the Global Position and Tracking System (GPATS) for the period January 2011 to June 2019. The annual number of lightning strikes and the ratio of negative to positive lightning (78:22 overall) were considerably different from one year to the next. There was an average of 80 lightning days per year, however, 50% of lightning strikes were concentrated over just four days. Most lightning strikes were observed in the west and north of the state consistent with topography and wind patterns. We searched the whole population of lightning strikes for those most likely to cause wildfires up to 72 h before fire detection and within 10 km of the ignition point derived from in situ fire ignition records. Only 70% of lightning ignitions were matched up with lightning records. The lightning ignition efficiency per stroke/flash was also estimated, showing an annual average efficiency of 0.24% ignition per lightning stroke with a seasonal maximum during summer. The lightning ignition efficiency as a function of different fuel types also highlighted the role of buttongrass moorland (0.39%) in wildfire incidents across Tasmania. Understanding lightning climatology provides vital information about lightning characteristics that influence the probability that an individual stroke causes ignition over a particular landscape. This research provides fire agencies with valuable information to minimize the potential impacts of lightning-induced wildfires through early detection and effective response. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Bushfire in Tasmania)
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Article
Changing Climate Suitability for Dominant Eucalyptus Species May Affect Future Fuel Loads and Flammability in Tasmania
Fire 2021, 4(1), 1; https://doi.org/10.3390/fire4010001 - 07 Jan 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1237
Abstract
Fire management is becoming increasingly relevant in our changing climate as fire frequency and intensity increases both on a global scale and locally in Tasmania. The distribution of fuel across the landscape has significant impacts on fire regimes, influencing connectivity and flammability of [...] Read more.
Fire management is becoming increasingly relevant in our changing climate as fire frequency and intensity increases both on a global scale and locally in Tasmania. The distribution of fuel across the landscape has significant impacts on fire regimes, influencing connectivity and flammability of fuel load. Remote sensing techniques are often used to assess current fuel loads, but projections of future fuel distributions are necessary for longer term planning of fire management. Eucalyptus species are an important, dominant component of many Tasmanian forests, influencing fuel load and flammability. We modelled the current and future climate suitability for two Eucalyptus species (E. delegatensis and E. obliqua), using a suite of species distribution models (SDMs) and global climate models (GCMs) for mid (2041–2060) and end of century (2061–2080) time periods. The implications these changes may have for the distribution of these important fuel species in the future are discussed. All GCMs projected notable changes in potential distribution, with both species contracting substantially in some areas and E. obliqua also exhibiting considerable expansions in the west of Tasmania. On average, suitability for E. delegatensis expanded by 5% ± 1.8% (1658 km2), contracted by 67% ± 22.7% (24,591 km2) and remained unchanged in 26% ± 7.8% (8783 km2) by the end of the century. For E. obliqua suitability expanded by a much greater 17% ± 6.3% (24,398 km2), contracted by slightly less at 55% ± 16.8% (81,098 km2) and remained unchanged in 45% ± 16.8% (63,474 km2) by the end of the century. These changes in climate suitability have the potential to cause changes in the composition and structure of Tasmania’s forests, impacting fuel loads. However, the two species exhibited different responses, reflecting their current distributions and suggesting that generalisations regarding species’ responses to changing climates are not appropriate, even where the species are closely related. These results suggest that future fuel loads and flammability at the landscape scale may change, requiring longitudinal, flexible and adaptive future fire management. Assessing the specific effects of distributional changes and the mechanisms driving different responses to climate change are highlighted as further research opportunities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Bushfire in Tasmania)
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Case Report
Measuring a Fire. The Story of the January 2019 Fire Told from Measurements at the Warra Supersite, Tasmania
Fire 2021, 4(2), 15; https://doi.org/10.3390/fire4020015 - 25 Mar 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1037
Abstract
Non-stand-replacing wildfires are the most common natural disturbance in the tall eucalypt forests of Tasmania, yet little is known about the conditions under which these fires burn and the effects they have on the forest. A dry lightning storm in January 2019 initiated [...] Read more.
Non-stand-replacing wildfires are the most common natural disturbance in the tall eucalypt forests of Tasmania, yet little is known about the conditions under which these fires burn and the effects they have on the forest. A dry lightning storm in January 2019 initiated the Riveaux Road fire. This fire burnt nearly 64,000 ha of land, including tall eucalypt forests at the Warra Supersite. At the Supersite, the passage of the fire was recorded by a suite of instruments measuring weather conditions and fluxes (carbon, water and energy), while a network of permanent plots measured vegetation change. Weather conditions in the lead-up and during the passage of the fire through the Supersite were mild—a moderate forest fire danger index. The passage of the fire through the Supersite caused a short peak in air temperature coinciding with a sharp rise in CO2 emissions. Fine fuels and ground vegetation were consumed but the low intensity fire only scorched the understorey trees, which subsequently died and left the Eucalyptus obliqua canopy largely intact. In the aftermath of the fire, there was prolific seedling regeneration, a sustained reduction in leaf area index, and the forest switched from being a carbon sink before the fire to becoming a carbon source during the first post-fire growing season. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Bushfire in Tasmania)
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