Researchers win Parks Victoria award

Researchers from the School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences have been acknowledged for their work on the effects of unplanned and planned fire on native plants and animals in the Great Otway National Park by being award the Nancy Millis Science in Parks Award from Parks Victoria.

Associate Professor Alan York and his small team of researchers received the honour for their work that also led to a greater understanding of how introduced foxes respond to fires.

The award was announced on June 5, World Environment Day.

Parks Victoria CEO Matthew Jackson said park management was a “complex task” that required innovative solutions in how best to tackle the impacts of climate change and bushfires.

“I congratulate this team whose work has made a real difference to how we manage the Great Otway National Park,” he said.

“This includes how and where Parks Victoria and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning run planned burn and fire ecology works and pest predator control programs such as fox baiting to best protect the native plants and animals.”

The outcome of the award-winning research, which covered 60,000 hectares of the Great Otway National Park and Forest Park over six years, looked into how plants and animals are affected by the arrangement of fires over space and time (known as fire mosaics).

Parks Victoria is now better equipped to make decisions about the ideal frequency, severity and patchiness of planned burns to help create and maintain habitat for native animals.

Associate Professor York said the collaborative research between the School, Parks Victoria and Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning had produced “significant results”, with long-term benefits for conservation.

“With significant increases in the use of planned fire in the landscape, Park managers need to have confidence in this new mosaic burning strategy and know its strengths and weaknesses. This research has provided the scientific evidence to provide that confidence,” he said.