Landscape Flammability

Environmental and human factors can strongly influence fire behaviour by changing the vegetation. Understanding the role of these influencing factors and the contribution of vegetation itself to fire behaviour is vital to better estimate landscape flammability.

Understanding what drives spatial and temporal variation in landscape flammability is critical for assessing fire risk.

Wildfires burn under varying climatic and weather conditions through complex landscapes that have a high degree of variation in vegetation, fuel moisture, topography and the location of vulnerable assets. The nature of fire varies greatly through space and time; some years high levels of rainfall may mean few wildfires that pose little threat to human values. Other years, particularly during periods of drought, the potential for uncontrollable wildfires is high. Therefore, an understanding of the processes which drive spatial and temporal variation in landscape flammability is critical for assessing fire risk.

Laboratory, landscape and key environmental drivers

At FLARE, we study landscape flammability from two different perspectives – the development of methods to extend laboratory research to large scales; and the development of methods to extract information from in-field and remotely sensed fire observations to determine the roles of key environmental drivers (i.e. dryness, vegetation type). This will enable the processes that drive flammability at landscape scales to be better understood, and identify potential levers that managers can use to influence future fire risk.

Landscape flammability research themes are wide ranging

Themes include:

  • Flammability windows – research spanning multiple scales using laboratory experiments, field observations and spatial analyses to quantify the conditions when fires are likely to occur across the landscape.
  • Plant traits as determinants of flammability – investigations linking plant traits to flammability to better quantify the fundamental drivers of plant flammability. 
  • Landscape fuel moisture – research to quantify the drivers of fuel moisture at landscape scales and to evaluate a range of moisture metrics as predictors of flammability.
  • Environmental fuel models – field measurements and modelling to quantify changes to fuel loads and structure over time in response to environmental and human factors.
  • Landscape fuel management – research to support the implementation of different fuel management approaches (e.g. burning, mechanical treatments).

Projects we are currently working on in this field

Evaluation of terrestrial laser scanning technology for the assessment of fuel hazard metrics

Fue hazard data are collected in the field for a range of purposes including rapid fuel evaluations during bushfires, assessing the effectiveness of fuel management, and developing and refining fire behaviour models. This research aims to ...

Understanding the origin and development of extreme and mega bushfires

Extreme and mega fires result in significant damage to property and infrastructure and are associated with large suppression costs. These events occur when separate fires merge. Their increase occurrence in recent seasons highlight the ...

Reducing landscape fire risk with green fire breaks

Currently in Australia the biodiversity crisis and wildfire risks are in direct opposition to one another. Increased wildfire risks under climate change place pressures on sectors and organisations attempting to revegetate the landscape and ...

Restoration of eucalypt forest in Wilsons Promontory National Park- Implications for forest values and site and landscape flammability

Wilsons Promontory provides an example of how repeated short interval fires can prevent the regeneration of a Eucalyptus canopy in a range of ecological vegetation classes. The ‘destocking’ of forests can dramatically alter the composition, ...

Other Capabilities

Future Fire

Predicted hotter and drier climates will modify wildfire intensity, extent, frequency, and seasonality. The Future Fires program will use strategic foresight and cutting-edge models to anticipate and help prepare for the wildfires of the future.

Ecosystem Interactions

Our work aims to understand how fire regimes affect plants, animals and ecosystem function and in-turn how ecological processes such as post-fire vegetation growth interact to influence fire behaviour and risk.

Fire Behaviour

Fire behaviour research considers the mechanisms of fire spread across the landscape. Uncovering the physics behind it through innovative and novel approaches helps us develop and improve predictive models of fire behaviour.