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Flame Temperatures Saturate with Increasing Dead Material in Ulex europaeus, but Flame Duration, Fuel Consumption and Overall Flammability Continue to Increase

1
Department of Pest-management and Conservation, PO Box 85084, Lincoln University, Canterbury 7647, New Zealand
2
School of Science, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland 1010, New Zealand
3
Bio-Protection Research Centre, PO Box 85084, Lincoln University, Canterbury 7647, New Zealand.
4
Geospatial Research Institute, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, 8140
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 6 December 2018 / Revised: 19 January 2019 / Accepted: 24 January 2019 / Published: 29 January 2019
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Abstract

A key determinant of wildfire behaviour is the flammability of constituent plants. One plant trait that influences flammability is the retention of dead biomass, as the low moisture content of dead material means less energy is required to achieve combustion. However, the effect of the dead-to-live ratio of fuel on plant flammability has rarely been experimentally quantified. Here we examine the nature of the relationship between dead fuel accumulation and flammability in Ulex europaeus (common gorse). Shoots with varying proportions of dead material were ignited in a purpose-built plant-burner. Three components of flammability were measured: sustainability (flame duration), consumability (proportion burnt biomass) and combustibility (maximum temperature). While flame duration and proportion burnt biomass had a positive linear relationship with the proportion of dead material, the response of maximum temperature was positive but non-linear. All three flammability components were reduced to a single variable using principal components analysis; this had a non-linear relationship with the proportion of dead material. The response of maximum temperature to dead material plateaued at 39%. These findings have implications for the management of habitats invaded by gorse; to mitigate fire hazard associated with gorse, stands should be kept at a relatively young age when dead fuel is less prevalent. View Full-Text
Keywords: gorse; sustainability; combustibility; consumability; flammability threshold; New Zealand gorse; sustainability; combustibility; consumability; flammability threshold; New Zealand
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Dent, J.M.; Buckley, H.L.; Lustig, A.; Curran, T.J. Flame Temperatures Saturate with Increasing Dead Material in Ulex europaeus, but Flame Duration, Fuel Consumption and Overall Flammability Continue to Increase. Fire 2019, 2, 6.

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