BARDI JAWI ranger Chris Sampi says an ecological survey of monsoonal vine thickets (MVT) involving Indigenous rangers on.Monsoonal vine thickets at risk as wildfire patterns change
They are also at greater risk from the State government and Woodside.
Pictured: The Dampier Peninsula’s western coastline. “Vegetation cover was significantly less at the edges of the thickets than elsewhere, indicating signs of vegetation decline.”—Dr Fisher. Image: yaruman5.
BARDI JAWI ranger Chris Sampi says an ecological survey of monsoonal vine thickets (MVT) involving Indigenous rangers on the Kimberley’s Dampier Peninsula has turned up disturbing results.
“Now we know that the change in the fire regime on the Dampier Peninsula has resulted in more fires, larger fires and more frequent fires, affecting a large percentage of vine thickets,” he says.
“Aboriginal people, including Bardi Jawi people, are known traditionally to have kept fire away from MVTs to protect important fruit, water and cultural resources, but now fire on the peninsula is mostly uncontrolled and increasing in frequency, seasonal intensity and scale.”
Environs Kimberley survey team leader Louise Beames says analysis revealed significant annual fire damage and losses in canopy cover, with 74 per cent of MVT patches being burnt every one to three years.
“Ground-truthing identified that fire impact is likely to be underestimated, and that fire compromises vegetation structure well into the patches,” she says.
Ecologist Dr Judy Fisher, who was contracted by Environs Kimberley for the research, says significantly more hectares of MVT were impacted by late and mid dry season fires than early dry season fires.
“Vegetation cover was significantly less at the edges of the thickets than elsewhere, indicating signs of vegetation decline,” she says.
“A major threat as canopy declines, and the normally closed canopy becomes open, is the invasion of grass species and other weeds.
“Grass which, tolerant of fire, increases fuel loads and assists in carrying hot fires into the normally grass-free MVT patches and, encourages more grass and fire promoting weed invasion and establishment, increasing fire intensity.
“Fire count is strongly related to the edges of MVTs along with reduced canopy cover indicating fire is reducing the canopy at the edges of the MVT s.”
“Overall the total MVT loss [moderate loss plus large loss] exclusive of other vegetation loss, such as roads, houses and infrastructure was 20 per cent of the 79 MVTs with groupings of vine thickets experiencing vegetation canopy loss of up to 34 per cent with other losses [roads and infrastructure] accounting for a further 21 per cent.”
Ms Beames says the Environs Kimberley West Kimberley Nature Project, which she coordinates, and the Bardi Jawi and Nyul Nyul rangers made presentations to two scientific conferences to protect one of the Kimberley’s most threatened ecosystems.
She says the federal government is currently deciding whether or not to list this ecosystem as Nationally Endangered under the EPBC Act (1999).
The James Price Point to Quondong vine forest is the most important part of this rare plant community.