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Testing traditional knowledge for bushfire management

Testing traditional knowledge for bushfire management

A/Professor Michael Shawn Fletcher

Associate Professor Michael-Shawn Fletcher is a Wiradjuri man, and a multiple ARC grant recipient based at The University of Melbourne, whose research tracks the long-term interactions between humans, climate, disturbance and vegetation at local, regional and global scale.

A/Professor Fletcher is currently leading his third Discovery Indigenous grant, which asks about bushfires in Southeast Australia – 'Has it always burned so hot?'  One of the questions the research seeks to answer is whether Indigenous cultural burning is a way of mitigating against climate-driven catastrophic bushfires in Southeast Australian forests. It has been argued that returning an Indigenous style fire regime will keep landscape fuel loads low, thus reducing the frequency and intensity of bushfires and mitigating against large catastrophic bushfires.

While based on enormous reservoirs of traditional fire knowledge in Indigenous communities, these assertions lack empirical testing within these highly flammable forests. To resolve them, A/Professor Fletcher and his research team are testing how fuel loads, fuel type, fire frequency and fire intensity have changed over the past 500 years in Southeast Australian forests, spanning the period of indigenous to British management.


Associate Professor Michael Shawn Fletcher. Image Credit: The University of Melbourne.

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