ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Can Indigenous fire management restore declining mammal communities? (2016-2019)


Hermon Slade Foundation, $85,971

Research Theme

Biodiversity Conservation


Dr Dale Nimmo, Professor Rebecca Bird (Pennsylvania State University), Professor Doug Bird (Pennsylvania State University), and Dr Euan Ritchie (Deakin University)


Australia has contributed to about 40% of all mammal extinctions world-wide since 1500AD with 43% of its terrestrial mammals categorized as 'near threatened' or worse.  The cause of this decline remains hotly contested with the displacement of Australian Aborigines and their fire regimes invoked as a contributing factor. The loss of traditional burning across large areas of Australia is thought to have driven a shift in fire regimes towards larger, more intense wildfires that removed important habitats and placed native mammals under enhanced predation pressure. However, due to the scale of Indigenous displacement, there are few opportunities to test this hypothesis in ecosystems where Indigenous maintain links with the land.

This project's aim is to reveal the benefits of restoring large-scale Indigenous burning for native mammal communities. It will do this by undertaking a landscape-scale natural experiment on the effects of Indigenous displacement on mammal communities using biodiversity surveys to compare landscapes under/not under Indigenous fire management. The project is based in remote areas of Western Australia's Western Desert.

The project combines with the Can Indigenous land management forestall an extinction crisis? Nimmo, D. (2017-2020) ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award, $372,000 project.


The project will provide critical knowledge for one of the Australian government's highest conservation priorities—avoiding further native mammal extinctions and reversing negative population trajectories—while also revealing the potential for Indigenous rangers to restore degraded ecosystems.


Associate Professor Dale Nimmo Email

Albury-Wodonga campus

October 2017