Ignition and burning characteristics of organic soils
Document Type: Conference Paper
Author(s): R. D. Hungerford; W. H. Frandsen; K. C. Ryan
Editor(s): S. Cerulean; R. T. Engstrom
Publication Year: 1995

Cataloging Information

  • air quality
  • boreal forests
  • combustion
  • deforestation
  • drainage
  • duff
  • fire exclusion
  • fire management
  • ground fires
  • heat
  • Idaho
  • ignition
  • laboratory fires
  • marshes
  • Michigan
  • moisture
  • mosses
  • mountains
  • North Carolina
  • organic soils
  • peat
  • peat fires
  • peatlands
  • pocosins
  • soil moisture
  • soil temperature
  • soils
  • surface fires
  • temperature
  • wetlands
  • wildfires
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: June 1, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 35750
Tall Timbers Record Number: 10077
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Call Number: Tall Timbers shelf
TTRS Abstract Status: Okay, Fair use, Reproduced by permission

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.


Surface fires in wetland ecosystems frequently ignite smoldering ground fires. Ground fires often create and maintain open, shallow marshes that contribute to ecosystem diversity. Fire exclusion, drainage, deforestation, and other human activities have altered the landscape patterns and ecosystem processes in wetlands. Land managers who recognize the ecological role of fire want to use it as a management tool in wetlands. Conflicts between concerns such as air quality and ecosystem management objectives limit the range of acceptable fire prescriptions. Land managers need information on ignition and burnout of organic soils to successfully use fire in wetlands and to make decisions about allocating resources for wildfires.In this paper we review the current state of knowledge on the ignition and burnout of organic soils and present initial results of laboratory ignition and smoldering experiments with soil samples collected from North Carolina pocosins and Alaska black spruce boreal forests . Initial results from a prescribed burn in Alaska are also presented and contrasted with duff from the Northern Rocky Mountains. Ignition tests were applied to black spruce and pocosin soil samples to determine the effect of soil moisture and mineral content on limits to ignition. Initial results for a range of inorganic contents indicate that pocosin soils will ignite at moisture contents from 25% to 100% higher than for peat moss and for feather moss from Alaska.The data suggest that bulk density and moisture content of organic materials may influence ignition and temperatures more than does soil origin. Temperatures observed in the combustion zone of prescribed fires and in laboratory burns of undisturbed soil cores are quite similar even for different organic materials. Soil temperature profiles (depth and magnitude of heating) are related to the duration of heating and the amount of organic material consumed. Lab and field data presented here are being used to validate and modify existing physical models that predict consumption of organic material and heat transfer into the soil.

Hungerford, R. D., W. H. Frandsen, and K. C. Ryan. 1995. Ignition and burning characteristics of organic soils, in Cerulean, S. and Engstrom, R. T., Proceedings 19th Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference. Fire in wetlands: a management perspective. Tallahassee, FL. Tall Timbers Research, Inc.,Tallahassee, FL. p. 78-91,