Biophysical mechanistic modelling quantifies the effects of plant traits on fire severity: Species, not surface fuel loads, determine flame dimensions in eucalypt forests

Philip Zylstra, Ross A. Bradstock, Michael Bedward, Trent D. Penman, Michael D. Doherty, Rodney O. Weber, A. Malcolm Gill, Geoffrey J. Cary

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    93 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    The influence of plant traits on forest fire behaviour has evolutionary, ecological and management implications, but is poorly understood and frequently discounted. We use a process model to quantify that influence and provide validation in a diverse range of eucalypt forests burnt under varying conditions. Measured height of consumption was compared to heights predicted using a surface fuel fire behaviour model, then key aspects of our model were sequentially added to this with and without species-specific information. Our fully specified model had a mean absolute error 3.8 times smaller than the otherwise identical surface fuel model (p < 0.01), and correctly predicted the height of larger (≥1 m) flames 12 times more often (p < 0.001). We conclude that the primary endogenous drivers of fire severity are the species of plants present rather than the surface fuel load, and demonstrate the accuracy and versatility of the model for quantifying this.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere0160715
    JournalPLoS ONE
    Volume11
    Issue number8
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016

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