Breakthrough north Australia fire mapping


Breakthrough north Australia fire mapping

Post date: Body:

After a year of painstaking work by myself and staff at Cape York Sustainable Futures we have finally completed ground-breaking fire mapping for north Australia from the year 2000 to the present at a level of accuracy and resolution far exceeding any another available data set. This mapping, using MODIS satellite imagery provided by RIEL’s Stefan Maier,  is four times more detailed than previously available fires mapping up to 2004. This work was conducted as part of the NAFI (North Australian Fire Information service) and forms a primary base data layer for input into the Savanna Burning methodology, under the Federal Government’s Carbon Farming Initiative.

MODIS Mapping

The Savanna Burning methodology involves the use of early dry season strategic prescribed burning to reduce the area and severity of tropical savanna affected by fire.. This is be achieved through careful planning, reducing the area burnt by hot late dry season fires, which have also been shown to consume twice the biomass of early dry season fires. Fire history and vegetation maps are used to determine the 10 year baseline emissions from any property implementing an abatement project. Ongoing fire mapping from NAFI is then used to determine emissions under the new fire management regime and calculate greenhouse gas emissions abatement benefits. All the historic and current burnt area mapping is provided free of charge through the NAFI website.

Validation assessments of NAFI MODIS mapping areunder taken each year by Andrew Edwards (NTG) collecting thousands of ground
verification points along aerial transects across northern Australia. The current year has shown a very high accuracy (~90%).  In addition a recent assessment by Dr Mick Meyer (CSIRO) contrasted this mapping (he uses it for national greenhouse gas accounting) with other
international MODIS products and found it to be far more reliable.


Whilst the NAFI website is managed by RIEL’s Peter Jacklyn, the much of the CFI methodology development has been conducted by a small team of dedicated researchers through the Northern Territory government’s bushfire research unit, of which I am a part (with significant contributions from  Peter Whitehead and NAILSMA).  To facilitate their work, which is increasingly focused outside the Northern Territory, this group,  lead by Cameron Yates and RIEL Adjunct Jeremy Russel-Smith,  will be moving operations over to RIEL in the new year. This will provide much greater flexibility for working across North Australia and savannah carbon initiatives internationally.

The Methodology Determination for Savanna Burning carbon farming initiative is available here »