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Keywords:

  • south-west Tasmania;
  • fire management;
  • Indigenous burning;
  • World Heritage Area

Summary In many natural areas, changes in fire regimes since European settlement have resulted in adverse impacts on elements of biological diversity that survived millennia of land management by Indigenous people. Some of the rainforest and alpine elements that depend on south-west Tasmania’s World Heritage Area have been in decline since European settlement of Tasmania due to an increase in the incidence of landscape-scale fires in the period 1850–1940. Some of the buttongrass moorland elements that also depend on the region are in decline or impending decline because of a decreased incidence and/or size of burns since 1940. Will an Indigenous-style fire regime serve the interests of biological diversity? We examine this question in the context of the fire ecology and fire history of south-west Tasmania. From this assessment we argue that a return to Indigenous- style burning, modified to address contemporary issues such as the prevention of unplanned ignition, suppression of wildfires and burning to favour rare and threatened species may help to reverse trends towards ecosystem degradation in this region.