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

Influence of water and terpenes on flammability in some dominant Mediterranean species

G. A. Alessio A C , J. Peñuelas A , J. Llusià A , R. Ogaya A , M. Estiarte A and M. De Lillis B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Unitat d’Ecofisiologia CSIC-CEAB-CREAF, CREAF (Centre de Recerca Ecològica i Aplicacions Forestals), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, E-08193 Bellaterra, Barcelona, Spain.

B Università del Molise, Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie per l’Ambiente e il Territorio (STAT), C. da Fonte Lappone, I-86090 Pesche, Isernia, Italy.

C Corresponding author. Email: or

International Journal of Wildland Fire 17(2) 274-286
Submitted: 21 February 2007  Accepted: 15 October 2007   Published: 18 April 2008


In the Mediterranean basin, fires are a major concern for forest and shrubland ecosystems. We studied flammability, its seasonality and its relationship with leaf moisture and volatile terpene content and emission in the dominant species of a Mediterranean shrubland and forest in Catalonia (NE Iberian Peninsula). We measured temperatures and time elapsed between the three flammability phases: smoke, pyrolysis and flame, for four seasons. We sampled twice in spring because of an occasional drought period during this season. Flammability had a significant relationship with leaf hydration, in the shrubland and in the forest. Few and only weak correlations were found between terpene content and flammability. In the future, arid conditions projected by climatic and ecophysiological models will increase fire risk through decreased hydration and subsequent increased flammability of the species.

Additional keywords: Arbutus unedo, Cistus albidus, emission and content of volatile compounds, Erica multiflora, Globularia alypum, Phillyrea latifolia, Pinus halepensis, Pistacia lentiscus, Quercus ilex, Rosmarinus officinalis.


Our research was supported by ISONET (Marie Curie network contract MC-RTN-CT-2003 504720) from the European Union, by grants CGL2004–01402/BOS and CGL2006–04025 from the Spanish Government (Ministerio de Educacion y Ciencia, MEC), by a 2004 grant from the Fundación BBVA and by a SGR 2005–00312 grant from AGAUR (Generalitat de Catalunya). M.E. acknowledges support from Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnologia (Ramon y Cajal contract).


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