Foothills Fire and Biota

Managers of fire and public land continually grapple with demands to do more to make the human community safe from wildfire and to conserve biodiversity. These demands are not necessarily in conflict, indeed in some cases they may be in harmony, but our current state of knowledge does not allow us to articulate a convincing strategy to meet both sets of demands. This project is addressing this knowledge gap by quantifying the ways in which elements of biodiversity respond to fire management strategies at different spatial and temporal scales in the complex landscape of Victorian foothill forests.

Fire is an important driver of Australian ecosystems. As a result, the scientific literature and policies of management agencies recognise the need to manage fire as part of strategies to maintain biodiversity. This is particularly the case for the Foothills Forest ecosystem, where ecological complexity is a product of complex topography and fire regimes. The high flammability of the vegetation, proximity to human settlements and role of fire as an agent of ecosystem renewal make sound fire management planning both extremely difficult and crucially important.

The Foothills Fires and Biota Project aims to provide mangers with the ecological knowledge required to confidently integrate biodiversity outcomes in to fire planning. We are using existing data sets to develop models that will enable prediction of the outcomes of landscape/fire/biota relationships.

The project will focus on two broad, complementary areas:

  1. How patterns in the landscape (e.g. vegetation, topography) interact with variation in fire history and severity in influencing both habitat (and hence flora and fauna) and the pattern of future fires.
  2. The relationship of vegetation growth stages (function of time since fire) to habitat attributes and therefore biodiversity. This knowledge of an appropriate mix of growth stages will assist in setting fire management targets aimed at enhancing biodiversity resilience while meeting other objectives.


The project is being carried out by a consortium of researchers from La Trobe and University, University of Melbourne and the Arthur Rylah Institute.

Project leaders are:

  • Professor Alan York (University of Melbourne)
  • Professor Andrew Bennett
  • Dr Josephine MacHunter (ARI)
  • Professor Mike Clarke
  • Dr Steve Leonard.

Contact us

For more information contact:

Dr Steve Leonard
Department of Ecology, Environment and Evolution, La Trobe University.