In 2020–21, the Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Framework for Bushfire Management on Public Land continued to be delivered through our Victorian Bushfire Monitoring Program. This included monitoring fuel levels and ecosystem resilience. This monitoring program data allows us to determine how effectively planned burning reduces fuel, and to evaluate our progress in reducing bushfire risk.

Fuel hazard monitoring

Fuel hazard monitoring provides important information about planned burns including the severity and coverage of each burn, how it has reduced fuel hazard, its success in achieving ecological burn objectives where appropriate, and if follow-up actions are required. We set burn objectives to achieve a balance between fuel reduction and preserving important values. For example, a burn objective may be to achieve 70 per cent burn coverage within the footprint of a planned burn to ensure that sufficient refugia, habitat and food sources are left for flora and fauna.

When evaluating a planned burn, we inspect a series of plots. Some fuel hazard assessment sites may be in areas intentionally left unburnt to provide refuges for animals in the planned burn area.

Table 1 shows the overall fuel hazard monitoring effort for 2020–21.

Table 1: Fuel hazard sites monitored, 2020–21

Monitoring ActivityBarwon South WestGippslandGrampiansHumeLoddon MalleePort PhillipStatewide
Other 2003    200

1 Including 83 monitoring points captured by Conservation Ecology Centre as part of a collaborative research project

2 Including 56 monitoring points captured by Conservation Ecology Centre as part of a collaborative research project

3 Gippsland monitor fuel hazard in 200 regional sites located in Asset Protection Zone as permanent monitoring sites. These sites are monitored whether they are burnt or not. Of these sites, 54 were in the Black Summer fire area.

Ecosystem resilience monitoring

Below shows the ecosystem resilience monitoring and related activities we undertook in each region. Monitoring was mostly of the before-and-after impacts of planned burns on important local values.

  • Remote sensing of the Far South West forest areas using Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) was undertaken, with control charts developed to analyse trends in forest health. This informs the management of key risks to forest health and biodiversity, including weed invasion and pathogen spread, as well as disturbance through bushfire and fuel management.
  • Using NDVI and Topographical Position Index (TPI) analysis, key areas for biodiversity refugia were analysed, with mapping produced to inform fuel management and protection from bushfire.
  • The University of Melbourne was engaged to develop a more robust method for monitoring fuel accumulation, with data collected at numerous sites using this method. Terrestrial LiDAR units are being tested to investigate their utility for monitoring fuel accumulation and measuring habitat structure change.
  • Continuing work mapping the habitat of the threatened Glossy black cockatoo and the identification of stands of Black she-oak which are important to ensuring we protect this threatened species’ habitat in state forests from mechanical disturbance and managed appropriately with fire during planned burns.
  • A demographic study of Banksia spinulosa, a key fire response species that may be compromised by burning too frequently, to determine the influence of fire severity on tolerable fire interval (TFI), which will aid in recovery.
  • Ongoing remote camera surveys for New Holland Mouse to determine population size and extent, to monitor the impacts of planned burning on the species and its habitat. Overall fuel hazard information was collected at each survey site to monitor change in fuel levels and how this may impact future fire intensity within New Holland Mouse habitat.
  • Ongoing research into the influence of fire on the endemic Enfield grevillea, an endangered plant species, monitoring the species for its post-fire response (seeding and resprouting). This included using a space-for-time design to determine the optimum inter-fire intervals for the species. This information will inform burn planning and the establishment of an appropriate fire regime for the long-term persistence of the species.
  • Continuation of Brush-tailed phascogale trapping and monitoring, to identify planned burning impacts on the species and its habitat. Initial findings show that planned burning has minimal effect on Brush-tailed phascogale populations. This project has helped improve mitigation measures, including tree protection work focused on habitat trees in high-activity areas.
  • Ongoing research to understand the potential impact of planned burning on the distribution of Greater gliders.
  • Ongoing research into emerging LiDAR technologies being used to undertake 3D fuel assessments.
  • The Eltham copper butterfly fire effects monitoring program is now up to the third round of surveys and is moving into the analysis phase. This work is key to understanding effects of fuel reduction burns on a species so we can ensure populations of this endangered species are protected.
  • Follow-up long-term monitoring of the endangered Pink-tailed Worm-lizard at One Tree Hill to examine effects of planned burns on this species’ habitat seven years post-burning. Preliminary analysis suggests the habitat has essentially returned to its original pre-burn structure.
  • Big Desert flora and fauna surveys continued at 28 sites and yielded 642 individual captures of 36 species. Since this round of surveys commenced in 2018, 96 sites have been surveyed. This work is part of a long-term study in the southern mallee landscape. This program is designed to answer questions about how species abundance changes in habitat of differing post-fire ages in Heathland Sands (Desert), Broombush Whipstick and Lowan Mallee vegetation types.
  • Conduct floristic surveys of heathland on French Island to improve knowledge of species diversity at differing fire intervals and times since fire, and to enable long-term monitoring of the effectiveness of the French Island fire ecology strategy.
  • Conducting fauna monitoring immediately after planned burning using motion-sensor cameras and acoustic arrays to detect changes in species assemblages and predator interactions.
  • Examining seedling recruitment of Hairpin banksia in areas impacted by the 2019 Bunyip State Park bushfire, to improve the management of this species during planned burning.

In 2020–21, we continued to deliver our statewide ecosystem resilience monitoring program in partnership with the Bushfire Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre (now Natural Hazards Research Australia), La Trobe and Deakin Universities, and the University of Melbourne. From the program’s commencement until 2020-21, we have invested in excess of $900,000 per year to deliver against a La Trobe University designed monitoring strategy and methods that measure the effects of fuel management and bushfires on ecosystem resilience.

The statewide ecosystem resilience monitoring program collects data about flora, habitat, birds, and mammals in 11 priority ecosystems across Victoria. Data collection is currently underway in eight of these ecosystems, with the remaining three due to commence shortly. This work will increase our knowledge of ecosystem and species responses to fire and improve fire management through evidence-based decisions. We will continue to analyse the data from the 11 priority ecosystems over the next few years, and we will use it to improve models and tools for bushfire management reporting and decision-making across the state.

Page last updated: 23/12/21