Murdoch University Research Repository

Welcome to the Murdoch University Research Repository

The Murdoch University Research Repository is an open access digital collection of research
created by Murdoch University staff, researchers and postgraduate students.

Learn more

How drought-induced forest die-off alters microclimate and increases fuel loadings and fire potentials

Ruthrof, K., Fontaine, J.ORCID: 0000-0002-6515-7864, Matusick, G., Breshears, D.D., Law, D.J., Hardy, G. and Powell, S. (2015) How drought-induced forest die-off alters microclimate and increases fuel loadings and fire potentials. In: Ecological Society of Australia Annual Conference 2015, 29 November - 3 December, Adelaide, South Australia.

Abstract

Forest die-offs associated with drought and heat have recently occurred across the globe, raising concern that associated changes in fuels and microclimate could link initial die-off disturbance to subsequent fire disturbance. Despite widespread concern, little empirical data exist. Following forest die-off in the Northern Jarrah Forest, southwestern Australia, we quantified fuel dynamics and associated microclimate for die-off and control plots. Sixteen months post-die-off, die-off plots had significantly elevated 1-hr fuels (11.8 vs. 9.8 tons ha-1) but not larger activity fuel classes (10-hr and 100-hr fuels). Due to stem mortality, die-off plots had significantly greater standing dead wood mass (100 vs. 10 tons ha-1), visible sky (hemispherical images analysis: 31% vs. 23%) and potential near-ground solar radiation input (measured as Direct Site Factor: 0.52 vs. 0.34). Supplemental, mid-summer microclimate measurements (temperature, relative humidity and wind speed) were combined with long-term climatic data and fuel load estimates to parameterize fire behaviour models. Fire spread rates were predicted to be 30% greater in die-off plots with relatively equal contributions from fuels and microclimate, highlighting need for operational consideration by fire managers. Our results underscore potential for drought-induced tree die-off to interact with subsequent fire under climate change.

Item Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/32937
Item Control Page Item Control Page