University Of Tasmania
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An assessment of fuel characteristics and fuel loads in the dry Sclerophyll Forests of South-East Tasmania

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posted on 2023-05-26, 02:45 authored by Bresnehan, SJ
The amount of available wildfire fuel is one of the critical factors for determining fire behaviour and is the only factor that can be easily managed. Knowledge of the rates and patterns of fuel buildup is therefore essential to effective fire management, both for wildfire incident management and on-going land management. Fifty-nine sites throughout south-eastern Tasmania were sampled for fuel loads, floristic and environmental data. A curve-fitting process was applied to the field data to produce fuel accumulation curves for the major dry sclerophyll vegetation types in the study area. Once developed, the fuel accumulation curves can be used to underpin other tools, such as GIS systems and field guides. A range of ordering schemes were applied to the data to determine whether the traditional classification of sites by canopy dominant species yielded the best results. Sites were categorised by phytosociological association, by geological substrate, by average rainfall and by the density of the canopy trees. These orderings were chosen as they conform to known major environmental determinant factors in dry sclerophyll bushland and were shown to have statistically reliable relationships to fuel loads. The potential for developing a field guide for land managers and field officers based on the modelled fuel curves was recognised, and a system developed for trialling. This method for rapidly assessing fuel weight in the field relies entirely on simple field measurements and provides an acceptable estimate in a mere fraction of the time required using more traditional methods. The results of these studies provide new tools for managing fire in the southeastern Tasmanian region and an appropriate methodology for further studies. The possibility of using other fuel classifications is demonstrated and indicates new avenues of investigations.


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