Widespread wildfires in early 2016 caused huge damage across large areas of the Tasmanian World Heritage Area, including significant sections of vegetation which is not fire adapted.
Inquiries into the fires were held during 2016, with a senate inquiry recommending the creation of specialist remote area fire fighting capacity.
The question of how much climate change influenced the extent and severity of the fires has been debated at some length, in the media and the inquiry processes.
This article by Emilie Gramenz from the ABC is a further update on the outcome of the process and the need for further research into the links between fire and climate change. A key message from researchers is that “climate change would likely make future fires more intense and more frequent”.
Fire risk in World Heritage area needs more research ahead of ‘longer, drier summers’
Further research is needed to understand the increasing bushfire risk in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA), a report says.
The Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre was commissioned to do further work on climate modelling, after last summer’s unprecedented bushfires.
Lightning strikes in January started blazes across large areas of Tasmania and burnt 19,000 hectares of the TWWHA.
Adjunct Professor Tony Press, who led the research, said climate change would likely make future fires more intense and more frequent.
“The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area saw bushfires this year that represent the kind of future that might happen under climate change — in other words, longer, drier summers,” he said.
Some of the report recommendations include the development of a fire management plan for the TWWHA with clear, well-defined objectives, and establishing an ongoing program of scientific monitoring.
It also called on authorities to track the development of new technology to detect lightning strikes.
“Satellite technology and other technologies are more able to help understand where lightning strikes may have occurred and then you can use aeroplanes or technology to see if there’s smoke emanating from those areas,” Professor Press said.
“In some places (in the TWWHA) like the peaty soils, you might actually have a fire that’s smouldering undetected for a very long time.
“That will still be a problem in the future, working out where these cryptic or secret fires might be after a series of lightning strikes.”
The Government welcomed the report and is closely considering the findings.
“We can get better at it, no question,” said Emergency Services Minister Rene Hidding.
“Tony Press is proposing to do more research on it. We’re favourably disposed to that but it’s a budget matter.”