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Title: Seasonal variations in red pine (Pinus resinosa) and jack pine (Pinus banksiana) foliar physio-chemistry and their potential influence on stand-scale wildland fire behavior

Author: Jolly, Matt; Hintz, John; Linn, Rodman L.; Kropp, Rachael C.; Conrad, Elliot T.; Parsons, Russell A.; Winterkamp, Judith;

Date: 2016

Source: Forest Ecology and Management. 373: 167-178.

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: The 'Spring Dip' in conifer live foliar moisture content (LFMC) has been well documented but the actual drivers of these variations have not been fully investigated. Here we span this knowledge gap by measuring LFMC, foliar chemistry, foliar density and foliar flammability on new and old foliage for an entire year from both Pinus resinosa (red pine) and Pinus banksiana (jack pine) at a site in Central Wisconsin. We found that needle dry mass increased by up to 70% in just three weeks and these increases were manifested as strong seasonal variations in foliar moisture content and foliar density. These needle dry mass changes were driven by an accumulation of starch in old foliage, likely resulting from springtime photosynthesis onset, and also by accumulations of sugar and crude fat in new needles as they fully matured. Foliar starch, sugar and crude fat content accounted for 84% of the variation in foliar density across both species. Flammability differences were also strongly related to changes in foliar density, where density accounted for 39% and 25% of the variations in foliar time-to-ignition of jack pine and red pine respectively. Finally, we use the computational fluid dynamics-based wildland fire model FIRETEC to examine how these foliar physio-chemical changes may influence wildland fire behavior. Under the lowest canopy density and windspeed, simulated fires in dormant condition stands did not propagate as crown fires while spring dip stands successfully spread as crown fires as a result of the higher potential energy content of the canopy. Simulated wildland fire spread rates increased by as much as 63%, nominal fireline width increased by as much as 89% and active fire area more than doubled relative to dormant season fuel conditions and the most significant changes occurred in areas with low canopy cover and low within-tree bulk density. Our results challenge the assumption that live conifer foliage flammability is limited only by its water content; this study suggests a new theory and an expanded view of the factors that dominate live fuel flammability and that subsequently influence larger scale wildland fire behavior.

Keywords: live foliar moisture content, spring dip, foliar density, flammability, fire behavior, fire modeling, FIRETEC

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  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.

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Jolly, W. Matt; Hintz, John; Linn, Rodman L.; Kropp, Rachael C.; Conrad, Elliot T.; Parsons, Russell A.; Winterkamp, Judith. 2016. Seasonal variations in red pine (Pinus resinosa) and jack pine (Pinus banksiana) foliar physio-chemistry and their potential influence on stand-scale wildland fire behavior. Forest Ecology and Management. 373: 167-178.

 


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