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
- 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).