[Text on screen] Matt Chick Biodiversity Officer Forest, Fire and Regions

[Matt Chick] Hello my name is Matt Chick and I'm the biodiversity officer within the Grampians risk and evaluation team.

We help to assess and identify where wildfire risks to life, property and biodiversity exists within our forested landscapes; and we do this in order to attempt to mitigate this risk as much as possible using fuel management practices.

We also assess the ecological risk to undertaking our fuel management practices in order to best attempt to align what we do with the local ecology; and finally, we also undertake what's known as monitoring, evaluating and reporting.


[Matt Chick] The Phascogale is a nocturnal and largely arboreal mammal meaning that it's active at night-time and it spends most of its time up in the trees.

So, although it is largely arboreal, it can't glide so it does also spend time on the ground running between trees, scratching around in the litter looking for insects.

It's also a dasyurid which means it has a really interesting life cycle.

The male will only live for around 12 months and its primary objective is to mate as much as possible and to have as many offspring as possible.

They're important because they're obviously an important part of the local ecology.

They're also a threatened species so they are listed under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act in Victoria and they have some really prime habitat, and a good population around the dryer box forest northwest of the Daylesford township.

The Daylesford township also has fairly high risk from wildfire, from the dryer forest to the northwest of the township, but also from the Wombat Forest to the south east which means that it is important to undertake fuel management practices and plan burning.

So there, obviously is there's some concern because it's a threatened species; there's concern within the community and, also internally about what impacts we might be having with our planned burning.

And although this species has been relatively well studied, and there's a lot known about it, there hasn't been too much work that has actually looked at its fire response.

So, its response to planned burning and what impacts planned burning might have on it, and on its persistence, its food source, and its habitat.

So, this project was really set up to answer a few questions about what impacts we might be having, and how we might mitigate them going forward.

So, we'll get notification that the burn is being considered in the near future, so this coming autumn, or this coming spring, and then we'll generally have meetings with the people involved with undertaking the burn and so we'll cover off on the monitoring that has to happen and how it's going to happen and kind of come up with a plan going forward.

We'll then go out and put the grid of cameras across the area that's being considered to be burnt, plus within a control area close by that has similar landscape attributes and we'll put the grid of cameras out for 21 days which is generally the period that you put cameras out for camera trapping.

We'll then bring the cameras back in and go through all the photos and assess how many of the cameras captured an image of a Phascogale and where they were within the landscape; and from this we will make a hot spot map which will really show where the Phascogale are in the area considered to be burned at that period of time; the useful and prime habitat trees in that area and we'll tag them.

Then we'll undertake the mitigation measure of raking around the base of the tree on some of the tagged habitat trees but not all of them.

This is information to really test the mitigation measure and see how successful it is at reducing impacts of the fire to the habitat trees.

The fire will then be undertaken, and we will do some fire behaviour monitoring during the burn, so by doing it whilst it's occurring and then when it's safe to do so we'll go out and do pre-burn monitoring.

So, we'll put the grid of cameras out again in the same spots for 21 days and we'll bring them in and have a look at the photos again, and from this we will develop another hotspot map, so we'll have a pre-burn hotspot map and then a post-burn hotspot map.

We'll compare those two to see have we had an impact on the presence of the activity of the Phascogale in the area or have they moved from this camera trapping. From this monitoring we've noticed a few patterns which have been really useful going forward.

So, we've found that the Phascogale activity is higher along open rocky kind of dry ridgelines as opposed to gully lines and drainage lines which have more bracken and more understory.

We've found that the mitigation measure of raking around the base of habitat trees is successful at reducing the impact of fire on those trees and the possibility that fire will get in within the trees.

We're also finding that the burns that have occurred we haven't found any great change in the presence and persistence of the species within that area.

Whilst not conclusive yet, it has been really useful for information going forward for how to best mitigate the risk of our burning to the species, to the Brush-tailed Phascogale.

It's only really happened because of the support that the projects had both in within the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and outside of the Department and the Midlands District has been really open and supportive with the monitoring and with listening to the recommendations that are coming from the monitoring and really integrating that into what they do going forward so it's been really encouraging and positive.


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Page last updated: 29/10/21