Relationships among leaf flammability attributes and identifying low-leaf-flammability species at the wildland-urban interface

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Journal Article
International Journal of Wildland Fire, 2019, 28 (4), pp. 295 - 297
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© 2019 IAWF. Leaf flammability is a multidimensional plant functional trait with emerging importance for wildfire risk management. Understanding relationships among leaf flammability attributes not only provides information about the properties of leaves as fuels in the wildland-urban interface (WUI), it can also offer an effective way to identify low-leaf-flammability species. We examined relationships between leaf ignitibility, sustainability and combustibility among 60 plant species of the WUI of eastern Australia. We found that leaf ignitibility and sustainability worked in opposition to each other as dimensions of flammability. Species with leaves that were slow to ignite were those with leaves that sustained burning for the longest, whereas species with leaves that were fast to ignite had leaves that burned for the shortest periods of time. Low leaf combustibility was related to short leaf burning sustainability but not to ignitibility. We created an overall leaf flammability index (OLFI) to rank species on emergent properties of ignitibility, sustainability and combustibility attributes in combination. We found that low-leaf-flammability species with low OLFI values had small leaf area, high leaf mass per area and high leaf water content. Our findings have implications for species selection for green firebreaks in the WUI.
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