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Why a scientist says prescribed burns are NOT effective in preventing bushfires

Gareth Parker
Article image for Why a scientist says prescribed burns are NOT effective in preventing bushfires

Conventional methods of bushfire mitigation are being put under the spotlight by Curtin University researchers after thick plumes of smoke blanketed Perth and outer regions this week.

Traditionally, large-scale burn-offs have been used to remove fuel loads and mitigate the risk of bushfires.

But Associate Professor Phillip Zylstra said shrubs and other undergrowth can actually grow back thicker after prescribed burns, providing more fuel for potential fires.

“When you burn you germinate a lot of those shrubs and it takes decades for them to self thin again,” he told 6PR’s Gareth Parker.

“These shrubs will self-thin themselves in taller forests.”

He said there are smarter ways to manage bushfire risk, but the science hasn’t made it through to practice yet.

“We need to first of all protect those very old areas that have self-thinned,” he said.

“The only sound evidence so far says that prescribed burning done within about a kilometre of town edges can be useful if it is done very, very frequently.

“If you are burning the huge blocks in remote areas, then what it is tending to do is probably increase the risk by preventing maturity.”

Click play to hear his alternative methods discussed in full.

(Photo: iStock by Getty Images.) 

Gareth Parker
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