Fuel Consumption and Flammability Thresholds in Shrub-dominated Ecosystems
Principal Investigator(s):
  • Clinton S. Wright
    US Forest Service, Pacific Wildland Fire Sciences Laboratory
Co-Principal Investigator(s):
  • Sue A. Ferguson
    US Forest Service, Pacific Wildland Fire Sciences Laboratory
  • Roger D. Ottmar
    US Forest Service, Pacific Wildland Fire Sciences Laboratory
  • Robert E. Vihnanek
    US Forest Service, Pacific Wildland Fire Sciences Laboratory
Completion Date: September 19, 2007

Cataloging Information

  • big sage ecosystems
  • chaparral
  • Consume 3.0
  • FERA - Fire and Environmental Research Applications Team
  • flammability thresholds
  • flatwoods
  • fuel consumption modeling
  • land management planning
  • shrub dominated ecosystems
JFSP Project Number(s):
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: April 11, 2016
FRAMES Record Number: 1140


Research to quantify fuel consumption and flammability in shrub-dominated ecosystems has received little attention despite the widespread occurrence of fire-influenced, shrub-dominated landscapes across the arid lands of the western United States. While some research has addressed issues relating to fire behavior in some shrub-dominated ecosystems, quantification of fuel consumption is critical for effective modeling of fire effects (e.g., smoke emissions, regional haze, erosion, plant succession, etc.) and landscape management. Preliminary research in this arena generated hypotheses as to the controlling mechanisms for fuel consumption in shrub fuel types that require testing through field-based experimentation. The primary objective of this research was to improve existing fuel consumption models for sagebrush fuel types and to develop new models for additional shrub-dominated fuel types for incorporation into Consume 3.0, an application for predicting fuel consumption and emissions for fire, fuel and smoke management planning. This research also addressed issues related to seasonal live fuel moisture and weather patterns and their relations to flammability in shrub-dominated fuel types. Fuel loading, fuel consumption, fuel moisture, site conditions, and fire weather were measured on a series of operational prescribed fires in big sagebrush (n=16), pine flatwoods (n=40), chamise chaparral (n=12), and pitch pine scrub (n=7) ecosystem types with a particular focus on consumption of the standing shrub biomass. Multiple linear regression models to predict fuel consumption from fuel and environmental variables are being developed and programmed into Consume 3.0. Relations between plant dimensions and biomass, and plant cover, height and biomass are also being developed to allow non-destructive biomass estimation from common and easy-to-make measurements. Making fuel and fire management decision support tools, such as Consume, more robust will aid managers, planners and researchers in developing environmentally, socially and legally responsible land management plans. This research allows for more effective and informed use of fire behavior, fire effects, emission production and wildfire/prescribed fire trade-off models providing for better wildland fire emissions and fire effects accounting and planning at local, regional, national and global scales.