School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences - Research Publications

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    Environmental factors associated with the abundance of forest wiregrass (Tetrarrhena juncea), a flammable understorey grass in productive forests
    Cadiz, GO ; Cawson, JG ; Penman, TD ; York, A ; Duff, TJ (CSIRO PUBLISHING, 2020-05-07)
    When flammable plant species become dominant they can influence the flammability of the entire vegetation community. Therefore, it is important to understand the environmental factors affecting the abundance of such species. These factors can include disturbances such as fire, which can promote the dominance of flammable grasses causing a positive feedback of flammability (grass-fire cycle). We examined the potential factors influencing the abundance of a flammable grass found in the understoreys of forests in south-east Australia, the forest wiregrass (Tetrarrhena juncea R.Br.). When wiregrass is abundant, its structural characteristics can increase the risk of wildfire ignition and causes fire to burn more intensely. We measured the cover of wiregrass in 126 sites in mountain ash forests in Victoria, Australia. Generalised additive models were developed to predict cover using climatic and site factors. The best models were selected using an information theoretic approach. The statistically significant factors associated with wiregrass cover were annual precipitation, canopy cover, disturbance type, net solar radiation, precipitation seasonality and time since disturbance. Canopy cover and net solar radiation were the top contributors in explaining wiregrass cover variability. Wiregrass cover was predicted to be high in recently disturbed areas where canopy cover was sparse, light levels high and precipitation low. Our findings suggest that in areas with wiregrass, disturbances such as fire that reduce canopy cover can promote wiregrass dominance, which may, in turn, increase forest flammability.
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    Frequency of Dynamic Fire Behaviours in Australian Forest Environments
    Filkov, A ; Duff, TJ ; Penman, TD (MDPI, 2020-03-01)
    Wildfires can result in significant social, environmental and economic losses. Fires in which dynamic fire behaviours (DFBs) occur contribute disproportionately to damage statistics. Little quantitative data on the frequency at which DFBs occur exists. To address this problem, we conducted a structured survey using staff from fire and land management agencies in Australia regarding their experiences with DFBs. Staff were asked which, if any, DFBs were observed within fires greater than 1000 ha from the period 2006–2016 that they had experience with. They were also asked about the nature of evidence to support these observations. One hundred thirteen fires were identified. Eighty of them had between one and seven DFBs with 73% (58 fires) having multiple types of DFBs. Most DFBs could commonly be identified through direct data, suggesting an empirical analysis of these phenomena should be possible. Spotting, crown fires and pyro-convective events were the most common DFBs (66%); when combined with eruptive fires and conflagrations, these DFBs comprise 89% of all cases with DFBs. Further research should be focused on these DFBs due to their high frequencies and the fact that quantitative data are likely to be available.
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    Improving Fire Behaviour Data Obtained from Wildfires
    Filkov, AI ; Duff, TJ ; Penman, TD (MDPI, 2018-02-01)
    Organisations that manage wildfires are expected to deliver scientifically defensible decisions. However, the limited availability of high quality data restricts the rate at which research can advance. The nature of wildfires contributes to this: they are infrequent, complex events, occur with limited notice and are of relatively short duration. Some information is typically collected during wildfires, however, it is often of limited quantity and may not be of an appropriate standard for research. Here we argue for a minimum standard of data collection from every wildfire event to enhance the advancement of fire behaviour research and make research findings more internationally relevant. First, we analyse the information routinely collected during fire events across Australia. Secondly, we review research methodologies that may be able to supplement existing data collection. Based on the results of these surveys, we develop a recommended list of variables for routine collection during wildfires. In a research field typified by scarce data, improved data collection standards and methodologies will enhance information quality and allow the advancement in the development of quality science.