Canadian Forest Service Publications

Interactive effects of vegetation, soil moisture and bulk density on depth of burning of thick organic soils. 2011. Benscoter, B.W.; Thompson, D.K.; Waddington, J.M.; Flannigan, M.D.; Wotton, B.M.; de Groot, W.J.; Turetsky, M.R. International Journal of Wildland Fire 20(3): 418-429

Year: 2011

Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 32356

Language: English

Availability: Order paper copy (free), PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1071/WF08183

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The boreal biome is characterised by extensive wildfires that frequently burn into the thick organic soils found in many forests and wetlands. Previous studies investigating surface fuel consumption generally have not accounted for variation in the properties of organic soils or how this affects the severity of fuel consumption. We experimentally altered soil moisture profiles of peat monoliths collected from several vegetation types common in boreal bogs and used laboratory burn tests to examine the effects of depth-dependent variation in bulk density and moisture on depth of fuel consumption. Depth of burning ranged from 1 to 17 cm, comparable with observations following natural wildfires. Individually, fuel bulk density and moisture were unreliable predictors of depth of burning. However, they demonstrated a cumulative influence on the thermodynamics of downward combustion propagation. By modifying Van Wagner’s surface fuel consumption model to account for stratigraphic changes in fuel conditions, we were able to accurately predict the maximum depth of fuel consumption for most of the laboratory burn tests. This modified model for predicting the depth of surface fuel consumption in boreal ecosystems may provide a useful framework for informing wildland fire management activities and guiding future development of operational fire behaviour and carbon emission models.