Forest fire worsened to climate change

Bushfires in Australia can create havoc. In the tragic Black Saturday fires in Victoria in 2009, 173 people died, and over 2000 houses were burned to the ground: this episode of fires often dominated the front pages of newspapers but the many thousands of other landscape fires occurring in any one year in Australia all have effects to a greater or lesser extent, for better or for worse, on households, farms, conservation reserves and forestry estates, i.e. on our social, economic and environmental assets. ANU Researchers have been concerned with all aspects of fires from their behaviour through to policy responses.

Fires contribute greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and therefore have an effect on global warming. However, the effect of global warming on the fires themselves is an important research area also. Temperatures are rising and most of the Australian continent is drying: in high rainfall areas fire may become more prevalent but in dry areas become less frequent.  Weather changes may indicate faster more intense fires are likely but such changes may be offset by poorer pasture-fuel growth.  Research into changes in fire behaviour under different climate scenarios by national and international groups of researchers has been an important plank in ANU research.

In the Fenner School, the impacts of fires have been studied on a variety of assets such as houses, biodiversity and water supply.  In response to the adverse effects of fires there has been consideration of a range of management, policy, legal, governance and economic issues.

Research assists us to better adapt while our population is increasing, our climate is changing and our impact on the land is intensifying.  The overarching question is: How can we better care for our social, environmental and economic assets now, let alone in the future with its ever changing fire environments? As Moritz, Gill et al., 2014, put it: How can we learn “to coexist with wildfire”?


Beer, T., Gill, A.M. and Moore, P.H.R. (1988). Australian bushfire danger under changing climatic regimes. In G. Pearman (ed) Greenhouse. Planning for Climatic Change, pp.421-427. CSIRO, Melbourne.

Bowman, D., Murphy, B., Boer, M. Cary, G.J. et al. (2013). Forest fire management, climate change and the risk of catastrophic carbon losses. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 11, 66-68.

Bradstock, R.A., Williams, R.J. and Gill A.M (2012). Future fire regimes of Australian ecosystems: new perspectives on enduring questions of management. In R.A. Bradstock, A.M. Gill and R.J. Williams (eds), Flammable Australia: Fire Regimes, Biodiversity and Ecosystems in a Changing World, pp. 307-324. CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne.

Bradstock, R.A., Boer, M.M., Cary, G.J. et al. (2012). Modelling the potential for prescribed burning to mitigate carbon emissions from wildfires in fire-prone forests of Australia. International Journal of Wildland Fire 21, 629 - 639.

Cary, G.J. (2002). Importance of a changing climate for fire regimes in Australia. In R.A. Bradstock, J.E. Williams and A.M. Gill (eds.), Flammable Australia: The Fire Regimes and Biodiversity of a Continent, pp. 26-46. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Cary, G.J. (2003). Sensitivity of Fire Regimes to Climate Change. Climate Impacts on Australia's Natural Resources: Current and Future Challenges, pp. 33-35. Queensland Government Standing Committee on Natural Resource Management, Queensland.

Cary, G.J. (2004). Importance of climate change for fire regimes. In A. Baker, M. Sparks, B. Diekman, S. Edmondson and M. Misdale (eds.), Bushfire in a Changing Environment: New Directions in Management, pp. 155-161. Nature Conservation Council of NSW Inc, Sydney.

Cary, G.J. (2005). Climate change and bushfire incidence. Clean Air Forum 2004, pp. 15-18. NSW Department of Environment and Conservation, Sydney.

Cary, G.J., Bradstock, R.A., Gill, A.M. and Williams, R.J. (2012). Global change and fire regimes in Australia. In R.A. Bradstock, A.M. Gill and R.J. Williams (eds), Flammable Australia: Fire Regimes, Biodiversity and Ecosystems in a Changing World, pp. 149-169. CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne.

Cary, G., Collett, E., Gill, A.M., Clayton, H. and Dovers, S. (2012). Future scenarios for Australian bushfires: Report on a Bushfire CRC workshop. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 27 (3), 34-40.

Clayton H., Mylek, M.R., Schirmer, J., Cary, G.J. and Dovers, S.R. (2014). Exploring the use of economic evaluation in Australian wildland fire management decision-making. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 23, 555-566.

Dovers, S. and Handmer, J. (2014). Disaster policy and climate change: how much more of the same? In A. Ismail-Zadeh, J. Urrutia-Fucugaughi, A. Kijko, K. Takeuchi, and I. Zaliapin, (eds), Extreme Natural Hazards, Disaster Risks and Societal Implications, pp. 348-58. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K.

Eburn, M. and Dovers, S. (in press 2015). Learning lessons from disasters: alternatives to Royal Commissions and other quasi-judicial inquiries.Australian Journal of Public Administration.

Gill, A.M. and Wade, A. (2008). Pyrogenic panic or perceptive planning for a new fire world? Fire and water quality. In Fire, Environment and Society, Proceedings of the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre and Australasian Fire Conference, Adelaide, September 2008.

Gill, A.M., McKenna, D.J. and Wouters, M.A. (2014). Landscape fire, biodiversity decline and a rapidly changing milieu: A microcosm of global issues in an Australian biodiversity hotspot. Land 3, 1091-1136.

Gill, A. M., Stephens, S.L. and Cary, G.J. (2013). The worldwide ‘‘wildfire’’ problem. Ecological Applications, 23(2), 438–454.

Gill, A.M., Williams, R.J. and Woinarski, J.C.Z. (2009). Fires in Australia’s tropical savannas: interactions with biodiversity, global warming and exotic biota. In M. Cochrane (ed) Tropical Fire Ecology: Climate Change, Land Use and Ecosystem Dynamics, pp. 113-141. Springer, Berlin.

Gill, A.M., Cary, G.J., Kuramotto, C. and Nightingale, M.E. (2008). Global warming, fires and the montane forests of south-eastern Australia. In K. McCue and S. Lenz (eds) Corridors for Survival in a Changing World. Proceedings of the NPA ACT Symposium, Canberra, 9-10 May 2008, pp. 113-122. National Parks Association of the ACT, Canberra.

Gibbons, P., van Bommel, L., Gill, A.M., Cary, G.J., Driscoll, D.A., Bradstock, R.A., Knight, E., Moritz, M.A., Stephens, S. and Lindenmayer, D.B. (2012). Land management practices associated with house loss in wildfires.  PLoS ONE 7(1): e29212. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029212

Hopkins, A., McKellar, R., Worboys, G.L. and Good, R. (2015). Climate Change and Protected Areas. In G.L. Worboys, M. Lockwood, A. Kothari, S. Feary and I. Pulsford  (eds),  Protected Area Governance and Management, pp. 495-530. ANU Press, Canberra.

Hussey, K. and Dovers, S. (2015). Managing critical infrastructure in a changing climate: risk, roles, responsibilities and politics. Proceedings of the Research Forum, Bushfire & Natural Hazards, and AFAC Conference, Wellington NZ, 2 September 2014.

Kershaw, P., Clark, J.S., Gill, A.M. and D’Costa, D.M. (2002). A history of fire in Australia. In R.A. Bradstock, J.E. Williams and A.M. Gill (eds), Flammable Australia: Fire Regimes and Biodiversity of a Continent, pp. 3-25. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K.

Keane, R, Cary, G.J., Davies, I., Flannigan, M., Gardner, R., Lavorel, S., Lenihan, J., Li, C. and Rupp, T. (2007). Understanding global fire dynamics by classifying and comparing spatial models of vegetation and fire dynamics. In P. Canadell, D. Pataki, and L. Pitelka (eds), Terrestrial Ecosystems in a Changing World, pp. 139-148. Springer-Verlag, Berlin. ISBN: 3-540-32729-0

Keane, R.E., Cary, G.J., Flannigan, M.D., Parsons, R.A., Davies, I.D., King, K.J., Li, C., Bradstock, R.A. and Gill, A.M. (2013). Exploring the role of fire, succession, climate, and weather on landscape dynamics using comparative modelling. Ecological Modelling 266, 172-186.

King, K., Bradstock, R., Cary, G.J. et al. (2004). Optimal risk-management of bushfires in a changing world. Bushfire CRC Conference 2004, p. 2. Bushfire CRC, Australia.

King, K.J., Cary, G.J., Bradstock, R.A., Marsden-Smedley, J.B. (2013). Contrasting fire regimes response to climate and management: insights from two Australian ecosystems. Global Change Biology. DOI 10.1111/gcb.12115. First published online 24 Jan 2013.

King, K., de Ligt, R. and Cary, G. (2009). Changes in fire and carbon dynamics for projected future climates in the south eastern Australian high country. In R.S. Anderssen, R.D. Braddock and L.T.H. Newham (eds.), International Congress on Modelling and Simulation (MODSIM 2009), pp. 2569-2575. Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand Inc., Australia.

King, K.J., de Ligt, R.M. and Cary, G.J. (2011). Fire and carbon dynamics under climate change in south-eastern Australia: Insights from FullCAM and FIRESCAPE modelling. International Journal of Wildland Fire 20(4), 563-577.

King, K., Cary, G.J., Gill, A.M. and Moore, A. (2012). Implications of changing climate and atmospheric CO2 for grassland fire in south east Australia: Insights using the GRAZPLAN grassland simulation model. International Journal of Wildland Fire 21(6), 695-708.

Mackey, B., Lindenmayer, D.B., Gill, A.M., McCarthy, M.A. and Lindesay, J. (2002). Wildlife, Fire and Future Climates. A Forest Ecosystem Analysis. CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne.

Midgley, G.F., Davies, I.D., Albert, C.H., Altwegg, R., Hannah, L., Hughes, G.O., O’Halloran, L.R., Seo, C., Thorne, J.H. and Thuiller, W. (2009). BioMove – an integrated platform simulating the dynamic response of species to environmental change. Ecography 33, 1-5.

Lindenmayer, D.B., Blanchard, W., McBurney, L., Blair, D., Banks, S.C., Driscoll, D.A., Smith, A.L. and Gill, A.M. (2014). Complex responses of birds to landscape-level fire extent, fire severity and environmental drivers. Diversity and Distributions 20(4), 467-477.

Moritz, M.A, Batlloria, E., Bradstock, R.A., Gill, A.M., Handmer, J., Hessburg, P.F., Leonard, J., McCaffrey, S., Odion, D.C., Schoennagel, T. and Syphard, A.D. (2014). Learning to coexist with wildfire. Nature 515 (7525), 58-66. [doi:10.1038/nature13946]

Wade, A., White, I., Worthy, M., Gill, A.M., Mueller, N., Taylor, P. and Wasson, R.J. (2013). Land use impacts on water quality following fire in a major water supply catchment. Australian Journal of Water Resources 16(2), 121-139.

Williams, R.J., Bradstock, R.A., Barrett, D, Beringer, J., Boer, M.M., Cary, G.J., Cook, G.D., Gill, A.M., Hutley, L.B.W., Keith, H., Maier, S., Meyer, C.P., Price, O., Roxburgh, S. and Russell-Smith, J. (2012). Fire regimes and carbon in Australian vegetation. In  R.A. Bradstock, A.M. Gill and R.J. Williams (eds.), Flammable Australia: Fire Regimes, Biodiversity and Ecosystems in a Changing World, pp. 273 - 291. CSIRO Publishers, Melbourne.

Updated:  30 April 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director/Page Contact:  Web Admin