Fire & Air Forum 2023 Biodiversity, Environmental Sustainability and Human Health
May 31, 2023

Following the highly successful Fire and Biodiversity Forum held in Margaret River in mid 2021, the Fire & Air Forum held at the University Club of Western Australia on Friday 5 May has further raised public awareness about the impacts of broad-scale prescribed burning in WA’s southwest landscapes.

A message from the Fire & Air Forum Convenor Carole Peters:

‘Noongar custodians and elders, farmers, fieldworkers, firefighters, peer-reviewed scientists, medical practitioners and researchers covered traditional practices, fire behaviour, biodiversity impacts, and the smoke hazard consequences of frequent landscape fires. The strong message from the line-up of highly qualified expert speakers was that the up-to-date peer reviewed science, the investigation of DBCA’s own prescribed burning and bushfire records, scientific modelling, fieldwork and photographic documentation overwhelmingly support the evidence of ecosystem damage, air pollution and health consequences, and a significantly increased incidence of wildfires in regularly prescribed burned areas. 

‘There is no reliable evidence that prescribed burning, as currently carried out extensively in the southwest of WA, prevents wildfires. It’s time for our government leaders to take on board the up-to-date scientific research, time to recognise the differences between the burning facts and the burning myths, and well past time for an independent expert inquiry into prescribed burning policies and practices.

‘This is not about attempts to control nature but to recognise the wisdom of connection to the land, and caring for Country, as traditionally practised by First Nations peoples who burnt selectively, at low temperatures, on a small scale, and in the appropriate season. Large tracts of forest were never burnt and traditional fire practices bear no resemblance to the incendiary bombing over thousands of hectares that we see as practiced by government departments today. 

Thanks to everyone who participated on the day, including the inspiring speakers, hosts (WAFA and RSWA), the generous sponsors and a switched on audience. This second big event to conserve and protect what remains of our South West native forests, woodlands, peat wetlands and coastal heath was a resounding success! Many voices calling for change will make a difference.’ 

The response from the audience and expert speakers was that the up-to-date peer reviewed science overwhelmingly supports the evidence of ecosystem damage and a significantly increased incidence of bushfires in regularly prescribed burned areas.

Dr Carole Peters
(DipEd BEd PhD)
Fire & Biodiversity Forum 2021 (Margaret River HEART)
Fire & Air Forum 2023 (University Club UWA)

Media on the event

Resources on prescribed burning


Nicolas Borchers Arriagada, Andrew J Palmer, David MJS Bowman and Fay H Johnston (2020). Exceedances of national air quality standards for particulate matter in Western Australia: sources and health‐related impacts. Med J Aust 2020; 213 (6): 280-281. doi: 10.5694/mja2.50547 

S. Don Bradshaw, Kingsley W. Dixon, Stephen D. Hopper, Hans Lambers & Shane R. Turner (2011). Little evidence for fire-adapted plant traits in Mediterranean climate regions. Trends in Plant Science February 2011, Vol. 16, No. 2

Bradshaw SD, Dixon KW, Lambers H, Cross AT, Bailey J, Hopper SD. (2018). Understanding the long-term impact of prescribed burning in mediterranean-climate biodiversity hotspots, with a focus on south-western Australia. Int J Wildland Fire. 27(10):643.

Tristan Campbell, S. Don Bradshaw, Kingsley W. Dixon & Philip Zylstra (2022). Wildfire risk management across diverse bioregions in a changing climate. Geomatics, Natural Hazards and Risk, 13:1, 2405-2424,

CSIRO Air Quality Forecasting. Presented by Fabienne Reisen & Ruth Dawkins (2021). Protecting the health of Australians through improved bushfire smoke forecasting. CSIRO ECOS Issue 283 – Building Resilience October 2021

David B. Lindenmayer . Elle J. Bowd . Chris Taylor . Gene E. Likens (2022). The interactions among fire, logging, and climate change have sprung a landscape trap in Victoria’s montane ash forests. Plant Ecology 223:733–749.

Rodrigues, U., Lullfitz, A., Coyne, L., Dean, A., Eades, A., Flowers, E., Knapp, L., Pettersen, C., Woods, T., & Hopper, S. D. (2022). Indigenous Knowledge, Aspiration, and Potential Application in Contemporary Fire Mitigation in Southwest AustraliaHuman Ecology50(5), 963-980.

Adeleh Shirangi et al (2021). Exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) during landscape fire events and the risk of cardiorespiratory emergency department attendances: a time-series study in Perth, Western Australia. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 76(9):jech-2021-218229 DOI:10.1136/jech-2021-218229

Marta Yebra et al (2021). An integrated system to protect Australia from catastrophic bushfires. The Australian National University: News and Views. 

Zylstra, P. (2023). Quantifying the direct fire threat to a critically endangered arboreal marsupial using biophysical, mechanistic modelling. Austral Ecology, 00, 1–23.

Zylstra, P., Wardell-Johnson, G., Falster, D., Howe, M., McQuoid, N., & Neville, S. (2023). Mechanisms by which growth and succession limit the impact of fire in a south-western Australian forested ecosystem. Functional Ecology, 00, 1–16.

Zylstra, P. J., Bradshaw, S. D., & Lindenmayer, D. B. (2022). Self-thinning forest understoreys reduce wildfire risk, even in a warming climate. Environmental Research Letters, 17, 044022. See FACT SHEET attached

Zylstra, P. J. (2018). Flammability dynamics in the Australian Alps. Austral Ecology, 43, 578–591.