Monitoring, evaluation and reporting in the Barwon South West 2017-2018

In 2017–18, we continued to implement our monitoring, evaluation and reporting plan. We focused on monitoring overall fuel hazard, monitoring programs to improve the risk models we use to inform strategic planning, and monitoring fire severity; and we expanded our ecosystem resilience monitoring program. We also engaged in learning and development activities to build the knowledge and skills of staff doing fieldwork.

During the year, we conducted overall fuel hazard (OFH) monitoring across 14 burns, with 128 sites monitored pre-burn and 110 sites monitored post-burn.

We continued our monitoring project collecting data on fuel accumulation in the Wye River –Jamieson Track fire area and the nearby Wye River – Kennett Wye Jeep Track burn area. This project is validating the fuel accumulation curves we use as part of modelling risk. We monitored 68 sites for OFH and vegetation structure, and we got comprehensive imagery of the sites.

We did our annual fire-severity mapping in 2017–18 at 21 forested burns. An app-based tool using Collector for ArcGIS has been developed locally, and we are trialling it to enable in-field editing of the desktop analysis, to help make fire-severity mapping more streamlined and accurate.

Two training events about OFH monitoring were conducted in the region, and 11 additional staff were trained in the Otway district (including two Country Fire Authority staff) and 14 staff in the Far South West district.

Several trials started in the Far South West district, to better inform management actions to control woody weeds. This involved contractors assessing sites to look at habitat / structural attributed before treatment and the effectiveness of different treatment options. These trials will continue over the next few years.

In the period 2012–17 in the Otway Ranges, we partnered with the University of Melbourne and the Fire, Landscape Pattern and Biodiversity and Hawkeye Projects. These projects enable us to better understand how more planned burning might affect species by assessing their responses to fire disturbance. Data analysis from recent re-sampling is underway and preliminary findings help us better understand the preferences of small mammals, fox predation and the benefits of maintaining a mosaic of age classes within the landscape.

The Anglesea – Bald Hills burn to the north-west of Anglesea allowed us to trial fine-scale, unbounded burning in a large area of heathy woodland, and we will monitor it for its effects on fuel hazard and ecosystem resilience. We completed camera, habitat structure and fuel hazard assessments to collect data before the burn, before we proceeded with this alternative way of burning. We will follow this with post-burn monitoring, expanded as the burn progresses, to better understand the ecological and fuel-management benefits of fine-scale mosaic burning in heath.

The University of Melbourne partnered with us in our Fire, Landscape Pattern and Biodiversity Project and Fire and Fragmentation Project. These are detailed studies of ecosystem responses to fire, which will inform our fuel-management planning. We complement these projects with in-house monitoring to address planning questions (such as what effect fire frequency as on threatened species of small mammals, and what effect canopy scorch has on Red-tailed black cockatoo feeding habitat).

La Trobe University worked with us on a statewide pilot project to identify a decision-making process to monitor effort investment, helping with survey design. The pilot re-sampled existing Otway Hawkeye sites to improve our knowledge of the response of small-mammal species to fire frequency.

We collaborated with Deakin University on studies in the Anglesea Heath. Deakin are investigating manufactured refuge tunnels that native wildlife can use after a fire when returning to burnt areas, and they drew on our monitoring data to decide where to place the tunnels.

Page last updated: 19/10/18