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

Short-term effect of fuel treatments on fire behaviour in a mixed heathland: a comparative assessment in an outdoor wind tunnel

Eva Marino A B , Carmen Hernando A , Javier Madrigal A and Mercedes Guijarro A

A INIA. Forest Research Centre. Department of Silviculture and Forest Management, Carretera La Coruña km 7.5, E-28040 Madrid, Spain.

B Corresponding author. Email: eva.marino.delamo@gmail.com

International Journal of Wildland Fire 23(8) 1097-1107 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF13175
Submitted: 13 October 2013  Accepted: 21 May 2014   Published: 27 November 2014

Abstract

Fuel management is one of the main challenges for wildfire prevention in the Mediterranean region, where wildfires have important environmental and socioeconomic effects. Different treatments are usually applied in fire-prone shrubland to try to modify its flammability. However, a knowledge gap on the effectiveness of fuel management techniques still exists. We studied the effects of two mechanical treatments (shrub crushing and shrub clearing with removal) and of prescribed burning, on fire behaviour, and compared them with untreated vegetation. Experimental burns in 0.8 × 6 m samples of regenerated shrubs 2 years after treatments were performed in an outdoor wind tunnel. All fuel treatments effectively modified fire behaviour, but no significant difference between treatment types was observed. Shrub fuel structure was the main factor affecting fire behaviour. Reduction of fuel load and height, especially necromass fraction, decreased flame height and fire intensity but did not affect fire rate of spread. Moisture contents of live and dead fuel fractions were not significant as independent parameters, but the average moisture level of the shrub fuel complex showed a relevant effect in determining fire behaviour. Temperature regime within and above the shrubs was also related to shrub fuel structure. This study contributes to understanding fuel management in shrubland by providing information about different fuel treatments effects on fire behaviour.

Additional keywords: fuel reduction, Galicia (north-western Spain), prescribed burning, shrub clearing, shrubland.


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