DES Seminar by Felipe Aires (PhD candidate)

13 June 2014

Effects of woody weeds on fuels and fire behaviour in Eastern Australia forests and woodlands


Fire is a common feature in most ecosystems in Australia. The native flora is well adapted to occasional fire and recovers over time in a variety of ways. Invasive species or 'weeds' are also a common feature in most Australian ecosystems, particularly in forests and woodlands close to urban settlements. Invasive species can alter the fuel load and structure providing the fine fuel necessary for initiation and propagation of fire. Woody weeds can also provide elevated biomass to sustain fire and move it towards the canopy. When both these elements are considered there is the likelihood of alteration of the fire behaviour in weed-infested areas of forests and woodlands. This study aimed to investigate a variety of aspects on how woody weed plants change the Eastern Australian Woodlands fuel structure, load and flammability.

Two study cases investigating the effects of the invasion by African Olives in the Cumberland Plain Woodland and the Cootamundra Wattle in the woodlands of ACT show how different species alter the environment and by consequence the fire behaviour in these areas. Morphological, chemical and combustion characteristics related to flammability of fuel were measured using leaves from a range of woody weeds and compared to native Australian plants. A novel computational method was used to rank the flammability of the species tested. To date no Australian studies have used fuel data collected from the field with fire behaviour models to predict fire behaviour in areas invaded by woody weeds compared to non-invaded areas. Fire behaviour was simulated in invaded and non-invaded vegetation using the BehavePlus Fire Modeling System and compared to the predictions of fire behaviour using models currently in use by Australian fire management authorities for grassland and forest fuels.

All welcome to attend.

Time: 4-5PM

Location: Room 422, Biomedical Building (C81), ATP

Contact: A/Prof Willem Vervoort

Phone: 02 8627 1054

Email: 220f243a21081743303a34391627227441010616543f672d552266224d