This article calls on researchers and policymakers to build a dedicated national bush-fire monitoring agency for Australia. This is essential to provide the coherent information required for cost-effective, evidence-based fire management and mitigation. Only thus, the authors underline, can Australia’s resilience to climate change be strengthened.
In this context, the authors make the following recommendations (p.4):
- Fire scientists, criminologists, social scientists and state fire agencies must work together to fully understand the relative importance of lightning, climate change and arson, among other natural and human factors, in causing bush fires.
- Reliable fire mapping should be based on blending remote-sensing data from coarse- and medium-resolution satellites, aircraft and drones with field validation.
- The national government must invest in federating existing regional data sets of ecological communities, and in mapping and field surveys to fill geographic gaps.
- Factors that help in determining the amount and chemical diversity of emissions as a result of the combustion of different fuel and vegetation types must be established for a wider range of Australian ecosystems.
- Air-quality epidemiologists have already called for an independent national expert committee to devise evidence-based, nationally consistent and practical means to protect the public from bush-fire smoke, including air-pollution measurements.
- A consistent national database of fire-management expenditure, coupled with accurate mapping of fire patterns and vegetation types is needed.