Burnoffs ‘need to be halved’

Burnoffs ‘need to be halved’

21 June 2011

published by www.ntnews.com.au

Australia — THE number of bushfires deliberately lit by authorities should be halved, says a CSIRO scientist.

Ecologist Anna Richards yesterday said patches of savanna were burnt every two or three years. She said this should be cut to every five or six years.

Dr Richards said changing the fire regime would cut greenhouse gases released into the air by the smoke and allow the soil to retain carbon.

“The amount of carbon captured by the soil is four times greater than that released by fires,” she said.

Dr Richards also said fire-lighting should be more “strategic”.

Natural bushfires in the Top End are at their most intense in September and October. The scientist said more savannah should be burnt early in the dry season to reduce the fuel load and prevent the super-hot blazes later in the year.

But she accepted that this would demand a great deal of manpower.

She said Aboriginal rangers should be used more to operate the fire regime. Fires are deliberately lit each dry season by Bushfires NT under the auspices of the Parks and Wildlife Service.

Critics of the burnoffs have nicked the service Sparks and Wildfires.

Bushfires NT director Steve Sutton denied land was burnt every two to three years, except near houses in Darwin’s rural region.

He said some land wasn’t burnt for seven years – and sensitive sandstone country for up to 20 years. Dr Richards said bushfires were a natural part of northern Australia’s savannas.

“There are more fires each year in the northern third of the country than anywhere else in Australia,” she said.

The fires make up about 3 per cent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. About half the Top End is burnt each year.

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