Dryness thresholds for fire occurrence vary by forest type along an aridity gradient: evidence from Southern Australia

Thomas J. Duff, Jane G. Cawson, Sarah Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Context: Wildfires are common in localities where there is sufficient productivity to allow the accumulation of biomass combined with seasonality that allows this to dry and transition to a flammable state. An understanding of the conditions under which vegetated landscapes become flammable is valuable for assessing fire risk and determining how fire regimes may alter with climate change. 

Objectives: Weather based metrics of dryness are a standard approach for estimating the potential for fires to occur in the near term. However, such approaches do not consider the contribution of vegetation communities. We aim to evaluate differences in weather-based dryness thresholds for fire occurrence between vegetation communities and test whether these are a function of landscape aridity. 

Methods: We analysed dryness thresholds (using Drought Factor) for fire occurrence in six vegetation communities using historic fires events that occurred in South-eastern Australia using logistic regression. These thresholds were compared to the landscape aridity for where the communities persist. 

Results: We found that dryness thresholds differed between vegetation communities, and this effect could in part be explained by landscape aridity. Dryness thresholds for fire occurrence were lower in vegetation communities that occur in arid environments. These communities were also exposed to dry conditions for a greater proportion of the year. 

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that vegetation driven feedbacks may be an important driver of landscape flammability. Increased consideration of vegetation properties in fire danger indices may provide for better estimates of landscape fire risk and allow changes to fire regimes to be anticipated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1369-1383
Number of pages15
JournalLandscape Ecology
Volume33
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018

Keywords

  • Bushfire
  • Climate
  • Drought factor
  • Dryness
  • Fuel moisture
  • Ignition
  • KBDI
  • Wildland fire

Cite this