First Margaret River Fire and Biodiversity Forum

Jess Beckerling, Convenor WAFA;Tracy Skippings, Secretary MRREC; Dr Carole Peters, Dr Wayne Webb & Toni Webb, Undalup Association.
Jess Beckerling, Convenor WAFA;Tracy Skippings, Secretary MRREC; Dr Carole Peters, Dr Wayne Webb & Toni Webb, Undalup Association.

More than 300 delegates turned out to take part in the inaugural Fire and Biodiversity (FaB) Forum in Margaret River early this month.

Held at Margaret River HEART, the event featured workshops, lectures and field trips with expert speakers, fire practitioners, ecologists and flammability experts, plus Wadandi-Bibbulmun custodians.

Scientists from Curtin University (Prof Kingsley Dixon, Adjunct Assoc Prof Philip Zylstra), UWA (Emer Prof Don Bradshaw, Emer Prof Carmen Lawrence, Dr Liz Barbour, Dr Alison Lullfitz), and ECU (Dr Anna Hopkins) joined Dr Valerie Densmore (DBCA), Lynette Knapp (UWA Albany) and Professor Stephen van Leeuwen, Australia's first Indigenous Chair of Biodiversity and the Environment to share ideas and strategies.

Forum convenor Dr Carole Peters said there had been a palpable buzz in the air since the event.

"Concerned citizens and scientists are calling for an independent review into the DBCA's policy of broad scale prescribed burning to meet targets of 200,000ha per annum, aiming to burn 45 percent of our South West landscapes in cycles of six years or less.

FaB Forum leader Dr Carole Peters with Jane Kelsbie MLA Warren-Blackwood District.

FaB Forum leader Dr Carole Peters with Jane Kelsbie MLA Warren-Blackwood District.

"Supporters from the WA Forest Alliance, the Denmark Environment Centre and the Margaret River Regional Environment Centre are working voluntarily and passionately for the conservation and protection of our precious but threatened landscapes in the South West."

"There is a growing body of science showing that forests in fact create stable environments if allowed to mature, that it is in fact (human) disturbance that creates the increased level of fire risk," said Dr Zylstra.

His peer reviewed research contradicts one of the central assumptions of Australian fire management - that forests accumulate "fuel" over time and become increasingly flammable.

"Contrary to common belief, there is now convincing scientific evidence to show that mature forests are dramatically less likely to burn.

"Once a forest is several decades old it becomes one of our best defences against large bushfires. As the fire season extends and heatwaves become more frequent, it's vital to preserve our natural protections.

"It may be the eleventh hour, but we're better placed now to stand with the forests and add what we can to their fight to survive climate change."

Dr Peters thanked the Undalup Association and Wayne and Iszaac Webb for conveying their deep cultural understandings.

"Caring for Country is obviously the key to a better future, as our First Nations custodians have taught us, their deeply held respect for country that has enabled them to survive as the most ancient living culture on earth."

Special Guest Speaker, Landscape Flammability Expert, Adjunct Associate Professor Philip Zylstra, Curtin University.

Special Guest Speaker, Landscape Flammability Expert, Adjunct Associate Professor Philip Zylstra, Curtin University.