International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Messmate stringybark: bark ignitability and burning sustainability in relation to fragment dimensions, hazard score and time since fire

Tara E. Penman A B , Jane G. Cawson A , Simon Murphy A and Thomas J. Duff A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences, Faculty of Science, The University of Melbourne, 500 Yarra Boulevard, Richmond, Vic. 3121, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email: taraepenman@gmail.com

International Journal of Wildland Fire 26(10) 866-876 https://doi.org/10.1071/WF16146
Submitted: 4 August 2016  Accepted: 29 July 2017   Published: 10 October 2017

Abstract

Messmate stringybark is common in forests across south-eastern Australia. The bark of these trees is persistent and produces firebrands that contribute to house loss and the difficulty of fire suppression during wildfires. The trees typically survive fire with the amount of bark depleted. We compared two common methods to assess messmate bark fuels: (1) field-based hazard assessment, and (2) desk-based assessment using mapped time since fire. Our measurements included space-for-time field surveys and laboratory flammability tests. Although several physical properties of bark could be approximated from both assessment methods, some bark properties important to flammability were not captured. Ignitability was found to be dependent on the amount of char on bark fragments and could be predicted by the site assessment methods, whereas sustainability was dependent on bark fragment dimensions and could not be predicted by current methods. Bark fragment properties were found to be partially a function of tree size. Overall, these findings indicate that current bark assessment methods do not capture all the key bark properties that contribute to messmate bark’s flammability. Further research is warranted to improve bark assessment methods so they better reflect bark’s contribution to fire behaviour.

Additional keywords: fire history, fire behaviour, fuel, eucalyptus, ignition.


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