Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

Modelling the long term effect of changes in fire frequency on the total area burnt

Imma Oliveras


Wildfires are one of the major problems in Mediterranean countries, and much effort is done by the governments to dissuade people from starting fires. Public campaigns often promote the idea that the more ignitions the larger the surface burnt will be. This reasoning is, however, not so straightforward. This paper addresses the question of how fire frequency relates to the total area burnt by using a model of fire regime that includes variables such as the number of ignitions, fire fighting capacity, fuel accumulation rates, existence of prescribed burning and meteorological variability. This question was addressed by performing three experimental simulations: effect of the number of potential ignitions, the combined effect of the number of ignitions and extinction capacity, and the non random spatial pattern of fire ignitions. Results showed that a larger number ignitions did not have a great effect on the total area burnt but had an effect in the occurrence of large fires, independently of the extinction capacity and of the spatial distribution of ignitions. An explanation for these findings is provided and management implications of these results are briefly discussed.

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