The burnt paws of koalas and kangaroos... People losing their homes... Fires can bring many horrible things, so having sustainable ecosystems would benefit everyone and every thing. Sustainability can mean many things, such as being able to use a resource repeatedly for a long time (1); however, the other sides of sustainability (sides other than the biological side) shouldn't be ignored when making decisions. Overall, sustaining Australian ecosystems that are prone to having fires is important.
When we think of fire, we think of it as a bad thing, but fire can also be a good thing. Native plants and animals in Australia, and some in other parts of the world, are adapted to fire regimes (2). A fire regime is referred to as multiple fire occurrences that take place one after another. Without fire, at least some animals and plants wouldn't be able to live. While Australia has had fires even before human beings were around, in recent years fires have become much worse. This has been at least partially due to climate change.
Ecosystems in Australia such as tropical savannas, temperate eucalypts
forests, and drier rainforests have fires. How can we make these ecosystems more sustainable? It's not about getting rid of fires; it's about working with fires (3). It's better to have planned fires because this actually helps reduce uncontrollable fires from happening. But there has been resistance to having planned fires (3). There needs to be enough funding (3) to manage fires so that people, people's property, and the flora and fauna of fire-prone regions can continue.
1. Defining and Predicting Sustainability by Robert Costanza and Bernard C. Patten. Ecological Economics, Issue 15, pages 193-196, 1995.
2. Australia Burning: Fire Ecology, Policy and Management Issues by Geoffrey Cary, David Lindenmayer, and Stephen Dovers (editors). Csiro Publishing, Collingwood, Victoria, Australia, 2003.
3. Burning Issues: Sustainability and Management of Australia's Southern Forests by Mark Adams and Peter Attiwill. Csiro Publishing, Collingwood, Victoria, Australia, 2011.
Photo: Dan Himbrechts/AAP/Associated Press