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An integrated approach to identify low-flammability plant species for green firebreaks

Author(s): Brad R. Murray, Colin Brown, Megan L. Murray, Daniel W. Krix, Leigh J. Martin, Thomas Hawthorne, Molly I. Wallace, Summer A. Potvin, Jonathan K. Webb
Year Published: 2020

With recent and predicted increases in the frequency and intensity of wildfires, there is a pressing need for mitigation strategies to reduce the impacts of wildfires on human lives, infrastructure and biodiversity. One strategy involves the use of low-flammability plants to build green firebreaks at the wildland–urban interface. It is common, however, to encounter uncertainty in a diverse range of stakeholders about the concept of flammability as it applies to plants, which may impede efforts to identify suitable low-flammability plant species. Here, we provide an approach to identify low-flammability plant species that integrates three fundamental and relatively easy-to-measure plant-flammability attributes – ignitibility, sustainability and combustibility – in a way that removes confusion about the concept of plant flammability. These three intrinsic flammability attributes relate to each other such that an ideal low-flammability species is one that is slow to ignite, sustains burning for a short period of time and combusts with low intensity. Consideration is then given to secondary attributes of plants critical to the selection of low-flammability plants, including attributes that influence the volume of fuel available for fires and the vertical and horizontal spread of fires. More work is urgently needed across the world to identify low-flammability plant species using standardised measurement protocols, and our integrated approach provides a transparent way to ensure we are selecting the right species, for the right location, in green firebreaks.

Citation: Murray, Brad R.; Brown, Colin; Murray, Megan L.; Krix, Daniel W.; Martin, Leigh J.; Hawthorne, Thomas; Wallace, Molly I.; Potvin, Summer A.; Webb, Jonathan K. 2020. An integrated approach to identify low-flammability plant species for green firebreaks. Fire 3(2):9. https://doi.org/10.3390/fire3020009
Topic(s): Fire Effects, Fuels, Wildland Urban Interface
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 21144
FRAMES RCS number: 61124
Record updated: May 5, 2020