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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 23(3)

Application and validation of visual fuel hazard assessments in dry Mediterranean-climate woodlands

Carl R. Gosper A B C , Colin J. Yates A , Suzanne M. Prober B and Georg Wiehl B

A Science and Conservation Division, Department of Parks and Wildlife, Locked Bag 104, Bentley Delivery Centre, WA 6983, Australia.
B CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, Private Bag 5, Wembley, WA 6913, Australia.
C Corresponding author. Email: carl.gosper@dpaw.wa.gov.au

International Journal of Wildland Fire 23(3) 385-393 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF13096
Submitted: 10 June 2013  Accepted: 29 October 2013   Published: 17 March 2014

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Understanding fire behaviour and vegetation flammability is important for predicting the consequences of fires. Visual assessments of fuel, such as those developed in Project Vesta, have been widely applied to facilitate rapid data acquisition to support fire behaviour models. However, the accuracy and potential wider application to other plant communities of Vesta visual fuel assessments has received limited attention. We conducted visual fuel assessments and detailed quantitative structural measurements in Eucalyptus salubris (gimlet) woodlands in the world’s largest extant Mediterranean-climate woodland. With one exception, there was moderate to strong correlation between visual assessments of cover in vegetation layers and quantitative measurements, indicating that visual assessments adequately capture changes in fuels. This suggests that the Vesta visual fuel assessment methodology may have wide application in Australian eucalypt forests and woodlands and perhaps in similar communities around the world. However, several issues limiting the wider application of Vesta visual fuel assessments were identified, mainly associated with differences in community ecology between non-resprouter dominated E. salubris woodlands and the epicormic resprouter-dominated dry forests where the method was developed. Patterns of change in fuels suggest that flammability in E. salubris woodlands peaks at intermediate times since fire, potentially providing opportunities for fire management interventions.

Additional keywords: chronosequence, crown fire, ecological fire management, eucalypt woodland, fire interval, Project Vesta, vegetation structure.


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