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Flame temperatures saturate with increasing dead material in Ulex europaeus, but flame duration, fuel consumption and overall flammability continue to increase

Author(s): Jennifer M. Dent, Hannah L. Buckley, Audrey Lustig, Timothy J. Curran
Year Published: 2019
Description:

A key determinant of wildfire behaviour is the flammability of constituent plants. One plant trait that influences flammability is the retention of dead biomass, as the low moisture content of dead material means less energy is required to achieve combustion. However, the effect of the dead-to-live ratio of fuel on plant flammability has rarely been experimentally quantified. Here we examine the nature of the relationship between dead fuel accumulation and flammability in Ulex europaeus (common gorse). Shoots with varying proportions of dead material were ignited in a purpose-built plant-burner. Three components of flammability were measured: sustainability (flame duration), consumability (proportion burnt biomass) and combustibility (maximum temperature). While flame duration and proportion burnt biomass had a positive linear relationship with the proportion of dead material, the response of maximum temperature was positive but non-linear. All three flammability components were reduced to a single variable using principal components analysis; this had a non-linear relationship with the proportion of dead material. The response of maximum temperature to dead material plateaued at 39%. These findings have implications for the management of habitats invaded by gorse; to mitigate fire hazard associated with gorse, stands should be kept at a relatively young age when dead fuel is less prevalent.

Citation: Dent JM, Buckley HL, Lustig A, Curran TJ. 2019. Flame temperatures saturate with increasing dead material in Ulex europaeus, but flame duration, fuel consumption and overall flammability continue to increase. Fire 2(1):6. https://doi.org/10.3390/fire2010006
Topic(s): Fire Behavior, Fuels, Fuel Descriptions
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 19340
FRAMES RCS number: 57812
Record updated: Apr 16, 2019