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Fire management at Piccaninny Plains
Wildfires – fires that occur in the late dry season, burning at high intensity across large areas – are a major threat to biodiversity on Cape York.
Fire management at Piccaninny Plains involves prescribed burning in the early dry season (May - June) and, if required, fire suppression in the late dry (October – December). Prescribed burning is delivered by aerial incendiary operations – dropping incendiaries from helicopter – with supplementary ground burning operations.
Prescribed burning is intended to break-up country, creating a patchwork of fuel loads of different ages. This limits the spread of any wildfires later in the year (they go out, or can be put out, when they reach country which was burnt in prescribed operations) and, importantly, ensures that the landscape contains patches of vegetation that is old growth (which many animals need for food and shelter).
Fire is also used on Piccaninny Plains to control and reduce weed infestations.
AWC’s fire management at Piccaninny Plains has substantially changed fire patterns across the property, reducing the impact of wildfires and operating as a showcase for effective fire management on Cape York:
- In 2013, AWC staff flew more than 1,500 kilometres and dropped more than 2,000 aerial incendiaries as part of prescribed burning operations. Ground-based burning was conducted along 500 kilometres.
- The extent of vegetation not subject to a late dry season fire for at least 3 years has increased from 8% in 2002-07 to 48% in 2010-12.