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Open AccessEditor’s ChoicePerspective

Linking Forest Flammability and Plant Vulnerability to Drought

1
Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, Western Sydney University, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith, NSW 2751, Australia
2
NSW Bushfire Risk Management Research Hub, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia
3
INRA, UMR547, PIAF, 63100 Clermont-Ferrand, France
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School of Life Science and Engineering, Southwest University of Science and Technology, Mianyang 621010, China
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Department of Crop and Forest Sciences and Agrotecnio Centre, Universitat de Lleida, 25198 Lleida, Spain
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College of Life and Environmental Science, Minzu University of China, Beijing 100081, China
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Centre for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfires, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Forests 2020, 11(7), 779; https://doi.org/10.3390/f11070779
Received: 10 June 2020 / Revised: 13 July 2020 / Accepted: 16 July 2020 / Published: 20 July 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Forest Fire Risk Prediction)
Globally, fire regimes are being altered by changing climatic conditions. New fire regimes have the potential to drive species extinctions and cause ecosystem state changes, with a range of consequences for ecosystem services. Despite the co-occurrence of forest fires with drought, current approaches to modelling flammability largely overlook the large body of research into plant vulnerability to drought. Here, we outline the mechanisms through which plant responses to drought may affect forest flammability, specifically fuel moisture and the ratio of dead to live fuels. We present a framework for modelling live fuel moisture content (moisture content of foliage and twigs) from soil water content and plant traits, including rooting patterns and leaf traits such as the turgor loss point, osmotic potential, elasticity and leaf mass per area. We also present evidence that physiological drought stress may contribute to previously observed fuel moisture thresholds in south-eastern Australia. Of particular relevance is leaf cavitation and subsequent shedding, which transforms live fuels into dead fuels, which are drier, and thus easier to ignite. We suggest that capitalising on drought research to inform wildfire research presents a major opportunity to develop new insights into wildfires, and new predictive models of seasonal fuel dynamics. View Full-Text
Keywords: drought; flammability; fuel moisture; leaf water potential; plant traits; wildfire drought; flammability; fuel moisture; leaf water potential; plant traits; wildfire
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MDPI and ACS Style

Nolan, R.H.; Blackman, C.J.; de Dios, V.R.; Choat, B.; Medlyn, B.E.; Li, X.; Bradstock, R.A.; Boer, M.M. Linking Forest Flammability and Plant Vulnerability to Drought. Forests 2020, 11, 779. https://doi.org/10.3390/f11070779

AMA Style

Nolan RH, Blackman CJ, de Dios VR, Choat B, Medlyn BE, Li X, Bradstock RA, Boer MM. Linking Forest Flammability and Plant Vulnerability to Drought. Forests. 2020; 11(7):779. https://doi.org/10.3390/f11070779

Chicago/Turabian Style

Nolan, Rachael H.; Blackman, Chris J.; de Dios, Víctor R.; Choat, Brendan; Medlyn, Belinda E.; Li, Ximeng; Bradstock, Ross A.; Boer, Matthias M. 2020. "Linking Forest Flammability and Plant Vulnerability to Drought" Forests 11, no. 7: 779. https://doi.org/10.3390/f11070779

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