We live on a continent with a long history of fire. Fire has shaped the evolution, structure and function of its unique biota and ecosystems. Our knowledge of fire has been transformed in the last couple of decades by new ways of viewing and analysing it (e.g. satellites, computer simulations, geographical information systems etc.), as well as the pressing challenge of understanding responses to future changes in climate and human activity. What is the likely future trajectory of fire and how will this affect our quest to manage risks to human communities and local ecosystems? Are we in line for the big burn? Recent research suggests that the challenges posed by fire in the mid to late 21st Century may compel us to change the way we live and interact with our local landscapes if we are to achieve a peaceful co-existence.
Senior Professor Ross Bradstock is Director of the Centre for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfires in the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health. His research is aimed at understanding and quantifying the risks that fires pose to human and environmental values, and deriving cost-effective solutions for mitigating these risks.