Season of burning in the Sydney region: the historical records compared with recent prescribed burning
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): L. C. McLoughlin
Publication Year: 1998

Cataloging Information

  • aboriginal practices
  • aborigines
  • Australia
  • autumn-winter burning
  • ecosystem dynamics
  • fire management
  • fire regimes
  • fire season
  • historic records
  • Hornsby shire
  • land management
  • national parks
  • national parks
  • New South Wales
  • presettlement fires
  • season of fire
  • spring-summer burning
  • Wales
  • wildlife
  • International
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: June 1, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 44870
Tall Timbers Record Number: 20304
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Call Number: Fire File
TTRS Abstract Status: Okay, Fair use, Reproduced by permission

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.


Prescribed burning is regularly carried out by land management agencies controlling bushland estate in the Sydney region. Despite the volume of research into the interrelationships between fire and Australian ecosystems, season of burning has received comparatively little attention and is poorly understood. This paper considers three aspects of season of burning in the Sydney region, which is located on the boundary of the spring and spring-summer fire season zones, identified by Luke and McArthur (1978). First the paper reviews research on the responses of biota to fire season to establish what is known of the ecological importance of fire season. The historical records of fires in the early period of Sydney's settlement (1788-1845) are then used to determine the seasonal pattern of fire in that period, and the extent to which these records reflect Aboriginal practices which contributed to the historic fire regime. Recent prescribed burning is sampled through the practices of two major land management authorities in northern Sydney (New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service and Hornsby Shire Council) to compare current practices with the early records and the ecological evidence. The results of the very limited ecological research on season is far from conclusive. Positive and negative effects have been shown for both autumn and spring with autumn-winter perhaps showing the greater degree of negative impacts, although it is often difficult to separate the effects of season from intensity. The historic records show a pattern of fires, including those lit by Aborigines, largely confined to the fire season of spring-early summer (August to January). By contrast 60% of prescribed burning in northern Sydney by the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service and Hornsby Council from 1980 to 1995 was conducted in autumn-winter (April to July). Prescribed burning in summer cannot be considered for practical reasons but timing of prescribed burning at other seasons is also largely dictated by pragmatic factors such as suitable weather and availability of personnel. © 2009 Ecological Society of Australia.

McLoughlin, L. C. 1998. Season of burning in the Sydney region: the historical records compared with recent prescribed burning. Australian Journal of Ecology, v. 23, no. 4, p. 393-404. 10.1111/j.1442-9993.1998.tb00744.x.