Many fires start and spread in the litter bed, so understanding the factors which influence litter bed flammability is important for predicting fire occurrence. Litter load, arrangement and moisture content are well-known drivers of litter flammability. However, the effect of other factors such as leaf traits and litter composition and is not well-understood. In this project, we used existing data on leaf traits, litter traits and flammability to explore what leaf traits are most important to flammability. Then, we examined how litter bed ignitability measured in the laboratory compares to ignitability measured in the field, to better understand the scalability of laboratory experiments. We then used this laboratory method to measure litter bed ignitability using litter collected from forests across an aridity gradient, which differ in litter properties and leaf traits. This will give us a crucial insight into the relative importance of different factors which influence ignitability. This information, combined with information on leaf traits, will be used to develop ignitability models to predict fire occurrence across the landscape. Finally, using data from a long-term ecological burning experiment, we examined how prescribed fire and logging influence the amount and composition of fine fuel, and what the implications are for flammability. This work gives insight into how different management regimes influence fine fuel which is important for managing fire risk and guiding future management prescriptions.
Project timeline: 03/2019 – 11/2022