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Describing the spatial variability of forest fuel properties.

We investigated the spatial variability of a number of wildland fuel characteristics for the major fuel components found in six common northern Rocky Mountain ecosystems. Surface fuel characteristics of loading, particle density, bulk density, and mineral content were measured for eight fuel components--four downed dead woody fuel size classes (1, 10, 100, 1000 hr), duff, litter, shrub, and herb--on nested plots located within sampling grids to describe their variability across spatial scales. We also sampled canopy bulk density, biomass, and cover for each plot in the grid. The spatial distribution and variability of surface and canopy fuel characteristics are described using the variance, spatial autocorrelation, semi-variograms, and Moran’s I. We found that all fuels had high variability in loading (two to three times the mean), and this variability increased with the size of fuel particle. We also found that fuel components varied at different scales, with fine fuels varying at scales of 1 to 5 m, coarse fuels at 10 to 150 m, and canopy fuels at 100 to 500 m. Findings and data from this study can be used to sample, describe, and map fuel characteristics, such as loading, at the appropriate spatial scales to accommodate the next generation of fire behavior prediction models.

Image: The six study sites where fuel variability was studied.

Image: six study sites
Modified: May 28, 2014

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Keane, R., K. Gray, V. Bacciu, and S. Leirfallom. 2012. Spatial scaling of wildland fuels for six forest and rangeland ecosystems of the northern Rocky Mountains, USA. Landscape Ecology 27:1213-1234

Keane, Robert E.; Gray, Kathy; Bacciu, Valentina. 2012. Spatial variability of wildland fuel characteristics in northern Rocky Mountain ecosystems. Research Paper RMRS-RP-98. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 56 p.