Selecting low-flammability plants as green firebreaks within sustainable urban garden design

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Fire, 2018, 1 (1), pp. 1 - 4
Issue Date:
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In response to an increasing risk of property loss from wildfires at the urban–wildland interface, there has been growing interest around the world in the plant characteristics of urban gardens that can be manipulated to minimize the chances of property damage or destruction. To date, considerable discussion of this issue can be found in the ‘grey’ literature, covering garden characteristics such as the spatial arrangement of plants in relation to each other, proximity of plants to houses, plant litter and fuel reduction, and the use of low-flammability plants as green firebreaks [1,2,3,4]. Recently, scientific studies from a geographically wide range of fire-prone regions including Europe [5], the USA [6], Australia [7], South Africa [8], and New Zealand [9] have been explicitly seeking to quantify variation among plant species with respect to different aspects of their flammability and to identify low-flammability horticultural species appropriate for implementation as green firebreaks in urban landscapes. The future prospects of this scientific work will ultimately depend on how successfully the results are integrated into the broader context of garden design in fire-prone regions at the urban–wildland interface. Although modern design of urban gardens must consider more than just the issue of green firebreaks, we and others [10,11] believe that selection of low-flammability plants should be high on the priority list of plant selection criteria in fire-prone regions.
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