Right now, hundreds of bushfires are burning across northern Australia. But this is not a wildfire catastrophe – in fact, these burns are making things safer in one of the most fire-prone landscapes in the world.
From April to June each year, fire managers – such as Traditional Owners, park rangers and pastoralists – aim to create small, “cool” fires with care and precision to reduce fuel loads before conditions get severe later in the dry season. This work, “painting” landscapes with fire, is constantly informed by satellite data.
The combination of space technology with Indigenous knowledge and the know-how of pastoralists and park rangers has been everyday practice across northern Australia for the past 20 years. Not only does this work produce some of the best fire management outcomes in the world, it also demonstrates how cutting-edge technology can inform local and traditional knowledge for environmental management.
In the early 2000s, researchers and land managers brought together by the Cooperative Research Centre for the Sustainable Development of Tropical Savannahs realised satellite imagery could be of great help for fire management across Australia’s vast tropical savannas.