Fire can have marked impacts on biodiversity and on ecosystem condition. However, it is the sequence of multiple fires over a prolonged period of time which can have the most marked effects on biodiversity and on ecosystem condition. A good understanding of these effects comes from long-term studies. In this article we outline some of the key perspectives on the effects of fire on ecosystems and biodiversity from two large-scale, long-term monitoring studies in south-eastern Australia. These are studies in the montane ash forests of the Central Highlands of Victoria and at Booderee National Park in the Jervis Bay Territory. These studies have shown that the effects of fires are strongly influenced by: (1) The condition of an ecosystem before a fire (e.g. the age of a forest at the time it is burnt). (2) Conditions after the fire such as the extent of herbivory in regenerating vegetation and whether the ecosystem is subject to post-fire (salvage) logging. (3) Fire history (e.g. the number of past fires and the time since the previous fire). And, (4) Interactions between fire and other ecosystem drivers such as logging. We discuss some of the key implications for conservation and resource management that arise from these studies including the need to: (a) Reduce the number of stressors in some ecosystems to facilitate post-fire recovery. (b) Recognize that pre-fire human disturbances can elevate fire severity in some forest ecosystems, with corresponding negative effects on elements of the biota, and, (c) Acknowledge the inherent patchiness of wildfires and the value of unburnt areas and places burnt at low severity as critical refugia for some species; it is critical that these locations are managed accordingly (e.g. by limited additional disturbances within them). Finally, many of the insights discussed in this article have emerged only through long-term studies. More long-term monitoring and research is needed to truly understand and better manage fire in Australian ecosystems.

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