Create fire breaks
Overall effectiveness category Awaiting assessment
Number of studies: 1
Background information and definitions
In some environments, fires can damage important habitats, particularly if habitat patches are small or fragmented, meaning that entire patches can be destroyed in fires. Fire breaks are ploughed, open or unplanted gaps of land around the perimeters of, or spaced within, areas of forest, grassland or farmland intended to prevent the spread of fire, thereby protecting important habitats. While the primary purpose of creating firebreaks may be top prevent the spread of fire, the open areas created could act as suitable habitat for some species, or present barriers to the movement of others.
See also: Put out wildfires.
Supporting evidence from individual studies
A replicated, controlled, before-and-after study in 2013–2015 in tropical savanna in the Northern Territory, Australia (Stokeld et al. 2018) found that reptile abundance remained similar in plots with fire breaks and active fire suppression compared to those with no breaks or suppression, though in fenced plots with fire breaks and suppression reptile abundance increased over time. Reptile abundance remained similar in plots with and without fire breaks (and fire suppression) that were also unfenced (2013: 0.6 reptiles/plot; 2015: 0.5 reptiles/plot; results standardised by sampling effort). In fenced areas, which all had fire breaks and suppression, average reptile abundance doubled over two years (2013: 0.3 reptiles/plot; 2015: 0.7 reptiles/plot; results standardised by sampling effort). Across all plots, reptile abundance increased with time since the last fire (0 months: 2 reptiles/plot; 50 months: 3 reptiles/plot). The effects of fire breaks and suppression and/or fencing on species richness was inconclusive (see original paper for details). Data were collected from six 64 ha plots, with two each treated with: fire breaks and suppression and no exclusion fencing, fire breaks and suppression and exclusion fencing; and no fire breaks, fire suppression or exclusion fencing. Fire breaks (8 m wide) were established around plot perimeters, and fuel reduction burning in the early dry season also took place, along with active fire suppression inside the plots (details not provided). Exclusion fences were installed in December 2013 (1,800 mm high and 550 mm below ground). Reptiles were monitored seasonally (March–April, June–July, October–November) in six transects/plot using drift fences with pitfall traps in 2013–2015.Study and other actions tested