BUSHFIRE PREVENTION – THE REGENERATIVE WAY
DISCUSSIONS AROUND THE CURRENT BUSHFIRE SITUATION ARE UNDERSTANDABLY RUNNING HIGH AND EMOTIONAL. CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE LACK OF FUEL REDUCTION GETTING THE BRUNT OF THE BLAME – Let’s sort through the facts to see clearer and make solutions more visible.
Responsible Fuel Management – which might include Fuel Reduction Burns – is best practise in Regenerative Land Management.
And yes, the Australian Bush can tolerate fires well and even in parts needs them to regenerate.
Some of the current fires however, are burning so hot that they kill the bush beyond regeneration.
Even areas, which have been back-burned recently, are burning again due to the unprecedented ferociousness of the fires.
So back-burning alone is not the answer.
Currently our entire continent is the hottest and driest it has ever been. Those conditions exacerbate the fires from fires we are used to, to unprecedented Megafires.
How did we get to that point?
The lack of topsoil, Soil Organic Matter (SOM), its microbes and the lack of a wide diversity of plants protecting and nurturing them, are the biggest factors to the increased desertification of our country. Built-up areas without plants, monocultures, overgrazed paddocks, bare soil, lack of plant diversity – all contribute to the loss of topsoil and subsequently to dryer, warmer soils, less humidity and increased temperatures.
Everything which is hot and dry burns easier, than material which is cool and humid.
To decrease the fire risk, the target must be, to lower the temperature and increase the humidity of our Land.
THIS IS NOT AS DIFFICULT AS IT SOUNDS AND DOES NOT TAKE AS LONG AS ONE MIGHT THINK.
To reduce the temperature on a property, we need to increase its water-holding capacity. Once water hits – either as rain, run-off from higher ground or even as dew – we slow it down and utilise it. Our best helper to slow down the run-off of water is the Soil Organic Matter (SOM) and its microbes in our topsoil.
There are a lot of ways to increase SOM – plants and plant diversity, Regenerative Farming practises or just feeding the microbes in the soil with compost, compost teas, worm wee or all of the above.
Once the Organic Matter in the topsoil increases, the humidity increases and the temperature in and above the soil lowers. Measurably.
Once humidity increases, it attracts more humidity. Initially as dew, later as rain. This then decreases the fire risk – the virtuous cycle of water retention has started.
IF THERE IS A NEED FOR A FUEL REDUCTION BURN, IT IS BEST CONDUCTED IN A GENTLE AND WHOLISTIC WAY TO NOT ENDANGER TOPSOIL, PLANTS AND WILDLIFE.
Currently burn-offs are done in relatively large areas in autumn, resulting in very high temperatures and speed of fires. They kill wildlife, Organic Matter and microbes in the topsoil, thus reducing its water-holding capacity further, decreasing humidity and increasing the temperature – the vicious cycle of desertification starts.
In the long run, hot burn-offs increase, not decrease the fire risk.
Indigenous people have used fire for Land Management for eons, however in a much gentler more wholistic way. Traditional burns are often applied in winter opposite to hot burns in autumn.
Small patches get burned more frequently, often in a circle moving outwards. The fires are cooler and do not destroy the soil microbes. They move slower, so that wildlife has the opportunity to migrate into safer areas and allowing people to manage the fires safely.
Due to the nature of those fires, they stay on the ground and don’t burn the canapé, allowing the trees to regenerate faster.
Burning is just one tool in the vast toolbox of Regenerative Landmanagement practices. If done with understanding and care, it can enhance the water-holding capacity of the soil and thus decrease the fire risk. If done with high temperatures at the wrong time of the year, it contributes to the loss of humidity, increase of temperatures and contributes to the fire risk.
The book ‘The Land of the Lyre Bird’ * is a compilation of eye witness accounts of early settlement in South Gippsland, Victoria. It quotes eyewitness reports of increased temperatures, decreased rainfall and humidity, subsequently increased fire risks within a year of clearing old bush.
WE NEED TO URGENTLY REVIEW OUR LAND MANAGEMENT PRACTICES IN RURAL AREAS AS WELL AS IN THE CITIES, IN AUSTRALIA AND WORLDWIDE
WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND THAT OUR SOILS AND THE CREATURES INHABITING THEM ARE ULTIMATELY THE ENGINE ROOM TO REGENERATE AND MAINTAIN OUR LIVEABLE ENVIRONMENT.
Every property counts – great and small.
Contact me if you would like to know how to build up topsoil iand water-holding capacity in your circumstances and how to scale up (large cattle stations / mining sites) or down (community gardens / backyards). Looking forward to talking to you soon.
‘The Land of the Lyre Bird’
published by the Korumburra Historical Society Inc.