Ecological burns

Our unique Australian landscape has evolved with fire over millennia. Most plants in the Sydney region require fire to germinate. The species richness, structure and health of our bushland depend on this process.

We are fortunate to be surrounded by large tracts of bushland in Ku-ring-gai; however, this green asset also increases the risk of bush fire, which poses a significant threat to lives, property and the environment.

Ku-ring-gai Council conducts prescribed burns to both mitigate this threat and to encourage native plant diversity and improved habitat for wildlife.

Bushfire mitigation

Prescribed burns are fires purposely lit and controlled so that they achieve desirable ecological and hazard reduction outcomes. Council uses hazard reduction burns to reduce fuel loads at ground level, and ecological burns to stimulate native plant diversity and maintain ecological processes. Both types of burn typically require medium to high fire intensity.

Hazard reduction burns are used strategically to reduce fuel loads and minimise the risk of large, destructive bush fires which threaten lives, property and other assets. These operations are usually conducted in accordance with Council’s bush fire risk management strategy. An annual schedule of hazard reduction burns and other activities are undertaken as part of a coordinated approach to bush fire management with the Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Bush Fire Management Committee.

Read more about Council’s bush fire plans and policies.

Ecological burns

Fire enables the re-establishment of species diversity, vegetation community structure and ecological function and processes. Inappropriate fire regimes (including timing, frequency and intensity) can, however, be detrimental to native vegetation.

The NSW Scientific Committee has identified fire as a key threatening process to native vegetation communities. Plant species burnt too frequently may not reach reproductive maturity to be able to set and disperse seed, future progeny, in the soil to grow. Without a viable seed bank some species may eventually be lost.

On the other hand, lack of fire can lead to the aging and eventual disappearance of some plant species. Both too frequent and lack of burning is known to reduce species diversity and change bushland structure. Consequently fauna reliant on these species are also negatively affected.

Ecological burning is undertaken to replicate the natural fire cycle. Each native vegetation community has particular fire needs, and controlled burning assists these natural processes, helping to stimulate native plant regeneration and enhancing biodiversity. It also aids weed control.

Typically ecoburns are part of site management treatments aligned with Council’s Bushland Plan of Management. Council has a legislative responsibility under both State and Federal legislation to protect threatened vegetation communities, species or other significant features. The Bushland Plan of Management sets out how Council manages bushland reserves, and prioritises site management activities.

Read more about Council’s bushland plans and policies and bushland management activities.


How do we undertake prescribed burns?

Before the fire we take time planning and preparing the site. We consider what is of value and how to conserve it, and ensure:

  • environmental assessments are completed
  • the community is consulted and notified
  • weed treatment is carried out
  • containment lines are cut
  • monitoring and evaluation occurs throughout.

Preparing an ecoburn site can cause short-term visual changes. Weeding the site prior to burning and fuelling with dry native debris is necessary to achieve both an appropriate fire intensity and effective weed control.  This may make the site look messy or damaged but this is a necessary and routine part of the ecoburn process.

Burning is undertaken once these pre-fire works are completed. Qualified Council staff work closely with NSW fire management agencies and other land managers to complete these activities. Burning operations can only take place under suitable weather conditions. Rainfall, high winds and extreme temperatures can often delay scheduled burns.

After bushland has been burnt it is extremely sensitive. Seeds slowly germinate from their rich soil crib as seedlings. Their delicate and fragile structure makes them highly susceptible to damage. One step can crush these seedlings. Regeneration takes time – up to five years in some instances. Council implements a suite of actions to give plants the best chance to grow, mature and improve their resilience to damage. This might include weed maintenance, vertebrate pest control and limiting access to the site.

Council often installs fencing to protect new plants from trampling and being eaten by rabbits and wallabies as they grow and establish. This is the most effective way to ensure post fire recovery. It also protects people and their pets, as some areas can be dangerous after burning. If an area is fenced off, please assist us by keeping out.

What can I do?

There are lots of things you can do to help Council conserve our natural heritage:

  • When visiting bushland areas, keep to formal walking tracks and fire trails
  • Control pets and ensure dogs are leashed in bushland areas
  • Stop weeds and other plants spreading from your garden
  • Report prohibited activities such as bike track and jump construction, dumping and encroachment
  • Install rainwater tanks, raingardens and other devices to reduce stormwater flow into bushland areas
  • Join a Bushcare group