Australia — New research showing that Murray River flows are strongly impacted by bushfires has vindicated calls for conservation forests to be actively managed to reduce the frequency and severity of major bushfires.
Research by scientists at the CSIRO Forest Biosciences has found that the 2003 bushfires could continue to reduce flows into the Murray River by more than 80,000 megalitres a year until 2020.
This is due to the intensity of regrowth required after bushfires such as the 2003 fires, which saw 3 million hectares of forests burn across Victoria, NSW and the ACT, particularly in national parks.
NAFI CEO, Catherine Murphy, has campaigned strongly for more active management of forests in reserves so that the intensity of wildfires can be reduced.
The Australian forest industrys position has always been that forests need to be actively managed to reduce the frequency and severity of bushfires, she said.
That means activities like bushfire fuel reduction targets must be met, access roads must be maintained and park management staff should be increased to allow more staff to be allocated to on the ground activities, Mrs Murphy said.
Mrs Murphy also noted the severe greenhouse emissions impact of the fires.
The 2003 fires have been estimated to have emitted 130 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, equal to one-quarter of Australias annual greenhouse emissions.
“Forests should be managed so that they do not become major carbon emitters and cause further negative climate change impacts, Mrs Murphy said.
If the destruction, through bushfires, of forests in reserves is having negative environmental impacts such as damaging our waterways and emitting huge amounts of carbon, then they are contradicting the environmental intent of reserving the forests in the first place, she said.