By Donna Carman
WA’s CURRENT prescribed burning regime may be based not only on unsubstantiated data, but may also contribute to the bush being permanently in a state of maximum flammability.
That hypothesis is the basis of a research project recently begun into the flammability of the red tingle, Eucalyptus jacksonii, which has an extremely limited range, around Walpole, and several other native eucalypt species of the State’s south coast.
The Red Tingle Flammability and Research Project was launched at a full-house event at the Denmark Environment Centre last Sunday.
The project grew from ground-breaking work by fire behaviour ecologist Dr Philip Zylstra at the University of Wollongong.
Dr Zylstra’s research paper was published earlier this year and came to the attention of local forest advocate and activist Tony Pedro, who invited Dr Zylstra to Denmark to look into any similarities between local native forest structure and conditions – especially red tingle – and the outcome of his eastern states work.
The essence of his findings is empirical evidence that peak forest flammability exists six to ten years since the previous fire, then drops off significantly after 20- 30 years.
The three members of the project research team gave presentations at the launch – Dr Zylstra, landscape ecologist Nathan McQuoid, and local ecologist and project coordinator Melissa Howe.
Among those attending were several people who had also been to a prescribed burning conference the week before, including local government and state agency representatives, bush regeneration professionals, project investors and the research team.
Asked why he agreed to the initial invitation from Tony Pedro to visit WA, Dr Zylstra said, “I could tell that the request came from the heart, from someone who really cared about the forest.”
For Tony the project is a logical consequence of what he says is ”visually apparent”, particularly in the tingle forest.
Along with many others he has spent years questioning official prescribed burning practices, and now feels empowered – and relieved.
“It feels good to now be in the background instead of struggling away in the foreground,” he said.