Hermon Slade Foundation, $83,462
Dr Jodi Price, Associate Professor Dale Nimmo
Temperate grassy ecosystems in southern Australia have been decimated since European occupation, and the few remaining remnants are mostly degraded and fragmented. Changes in disturbance regimes had dramatic and rapid effects—the removal of fire and introduction of livestock grazing resulted in the local extinction of grazing sensitive and fire-dependent species, and led to an increase in exotic species. All temperate grasslands in southern Australia are endangered or critically endangered.
Recently, fire has been re-introduced into long unburnt landscapes to restore both biodiversity and Indigenous connection to country. This provides a rare opportunity to examine if the return of cultural burning to southern Australia’s landscapes can restore plant diversity.
This project will draw upon an ambitious cultural fire program in central Victoria, which has recently commenced following a landmark agreement between the state government and the Traditional Owners, Dja Dja Wurrung.
The 20-year plan secures Dja Dja Wurrung involvement in fire management, and signifies the first Aboriginal-led burns in the region’s public lands for over 180 years. These cultural burns, or djadak wi, involve the deliberate burning of parts of the landscape for ecological and cultural purposes. The location of fires is determined by elders, and are carried out by Dja Dja Wurrung people along with management agencies.
Working together with Dja Dja Wurrung, this project endeavours to determine the plant community responses to cultural fire, and identify the conditions under which cultural fire results in positive outcomes for biodiversity.
This project is significant in filling an important ecological knowledge gap in determining the recovery of grasslands with the return of cultural burns, and will be an exemplar collaboration between scientists, government agencies, and Traditional Owners.
The expected outcome of this project is a better understanding of the role cultural burns can play in the recovery of native grasslands and their use in future land management actions.
Dr Jodi Price