Short Communication. Comparing flammability traits among fire-stricken (low elevation) and non fire-stricken (high elevation) conifer forest species of Europe: A test of the Mutch hypothesis

A. P. Dimitrakopoulos, I. D. Mitsopoulos, A. Kaliva


Aim of study. The flammability of the main coniferous forest species of Europe, divided into two groups according to their fire regime and altitudinal distribution, was tested in an effort to detect species-specific differences that may have an influence on community-wide fire regimes.

Area of study. Conifer species comprising low- and high-elevation forests in Europe.

Materials and Methods. The following conifer species were tested: low elevation; Pinus halepensis (Aleppo pine), Pinus brutia (Turkish pine), Pinus pinaster (maritime pine), Pinus pinea (stone pine) and Cupressus sempervirens (cypress), high elevation (i.e., above 600 m a.s.l.); Pinus sylvestris (Scots pine), Abies alba (white fir), Picea excelsa (Norway spruce), Abies borissii regis (Macedonian fir) and Pinus nigra (black pine). Flammability assessment (time-to-ignition and ignition temperature) was conducted by an innovative ignition apparatus, heat content was measured with an IKA Adiabatic Bomb Calorimeter and ash content by heating 5 g of plant material in a muffle furnace at 650ºC for 1 h. Differences among species was statistically analysed by Duncan’s multiple comparison test.

Main results. The results did not distinguish separate groups among traits between fire- and non-fire-stricken communities at the individual species level.

Research highlights. Differences in fire regimes among low and high elevation conifer forests could be attributed either to differences in flammability of the plant communities as a whole (i.e., fuelbed or canopy properties vs. individual fuel properties) or to other factors (climatic or anthropogenic).

Key words: flammability; ignitability; heat content; ash content; conifer species; Mutch hypothesis.

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DOI: 10.5424/fs/2013221-02475