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The Influence of fuel moisture and flammable monoterpenes on the combustibility of conifer fuels

Author(s): Michael J. Jenkins, Justin B. Runyon, Martin E. Alexander, Wesley G. Page, Andrew Guinta
Year Published: 2016

Bark beetle-caused tree mortality and its effect on both the fuels complex and potential fire behavior in affected forests, particularly lodgepole pine forests, has been a topic of much debate in recent years (Hicke et al. 2012; Jenkins et al. 2012; Black et al. 2013). Early research on the subject seemed to suggest a straightforward relationship where it was expected that the tree mortality and its resulting direct and indirect effects on forest structure and fuel loading would increase potential fire behavior both in the short and long term (Brown 1975; Lotan et al. 1985; Schmid and Amman 1992). However, recent work has suggested a much more complicated relationship than previously thought that is dependent upon a host of site specific factors and the particular bark beetle-host system (Hicke et al. 2012; Donato et al. 2013). Of particular concern and the subject of most debate has been the influence of recent tree mortality on crown fire potential, including crown fire initiation and spread, in lodgepole pine forests, as this forest type has been the most affected, in terms of area and severity, by mountain pine beetle-caused mortality. We argue that the use of inappropriate and/or un-validated fire behavior models based on inadequate descriptions of crown fuel flammability has been the primary source of confusion, which has led some to draw unsubstantiated conclusions. This work quantifies and clarifies some of the important changes to crown fuel flammability and crown fire potential caused by bark beetle attack so that more accurate assessments of crown fire potential can be made in the future.

Citation: Jenkins MJ, Runyon JB, Alexander ME, Page WG, Guinta A. 2016. The Influence of fuel moisture and flammable monoterpenes on the combustibility of conifer fuels. Final report to the Joint Fire Science Program, Project 11-1-4-16. Boise, ID: Joint Fire Science Program, 8 p.
Topic(s): Fire Behavior, Fire & Wildlife, Invertebrates, Mountain pine beetles
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Technical Report or White Paper
NRFSN number: 15574
Record updated: Jun 14, 2018