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

Seasonal relationships between foliar moisture content, heat content and biochemistry of lodgepole line and big sagebrush foliage

Yi Qi A C , W. Matt Jolly B , Philip E. Dennison A and Rachael C. Kropp B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Geography, University of Utah, 260 South Central Campus Drive, Room 270, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112-9155, USA.

B Rocky Mountain Research Station, Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory, 5775 West US Highway 10, Missoula, MT 59808-9361, USA.

C Corresponding author. Email: yi.qi@utah.edu

International Journal of Wildland Fire 25(5) 574-578 https://doi.org/10.1071/WF15156
Submitted: 22 August 2015  Accepted: 14 January 2016   Published: 31 March 2016

Abstract

Wildland fires propagate by liberating energy contained within living and senescent plant biomass. The maximum amount of energy that can be generated by burning a given plant part can be quantified and is generally referred to as its heat content (HC). Many studies have examined heat content of wildland fuels but studies examining the seasonal variation in foliar HC among vegetation types are severely lacking. We collected foliage samples bi-weekly for five months from two common species in the western USA: lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta Douglas ex Loudon) and big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt). We measured HC, live fuel moisture content (LFMC) and biochemical components in the leaf dry mass. Our results showed that HC increased for both species, coinciding with LFMC decrease during the growing season. Measured HC values were higher than the constant value in standard fuel models. Lasso regression models identified biochemical components for explaining temporal HC and LFMC variation in lodgepole pine (HC: R2adj = 0.55, root mean square error (RMSE) = 0.35; LFMC: R2adj = 0.84, RMSE = 10.79), sagebrush (HC: R2adj = 0.90, RMSE = 0.13; LFMC: R2adj = 0.96, RMSE = 7.66) and combined data from both species (HC: R2adj = 0.77, RMSE = 0.33; LFMC: R2adj = 0.61, RMSE = 19.75). These results demonstrated the seasonal change in HC and LFMC resulted from temporal biochemical composition variation in dry mass. This new knowledge about HC seasonal change will ultimately lead to improved predictions of wildland fire spread and intensity.

Additional keywords: biochemistry, fuel heat content, live fuel moisture content.


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