Modeling thinning effects on fire behavior with STANDFIRE

Topical collection: Mensuration and modelling for forestry in a changing environment

We describe a modeling system that enables detailed, 3D fire simulations in forest fuels. Using data from three sites, we analyze thinning fuel treatments on fire behavior and fire effects and compare outputs with a more commonly used model.

Context. Thinning is considered useful in altering fire behavior, reducing fire severity, and restoring resilient ecosystems. Yet, few tools currently exist that enable detailed analysis of such efforts.
Aims. The study aims to describe and demonstrate a new modeling system. A second goal is to put its capabilities in context of previous work through comparisons with established models.
Methods. The modeling system, built in Python and Java, uses data from a widely used forest model to develop spatially explicit fuel inputs to two 3D physics-based fire models. Using forest data from three sites in Montana, USA, we explore effects of thinning on fire behavior and fire effects and compare model outputs.
Results. The study demonstrates new capabilities in assessing fire behavior and fire effects changes from thinning. While both models showed some increases in fire behavior relating to higher winds within the stand following thinning, results were quite different in terms of tree mortality. These different outcomes illustrate the need for continuing refinement of decision support tools for forest management.
Conclusion. This system enables researchers and managers to use measured forest fuel data in dynamic, 3D fire simulations, improving capabilities for quantitative assessment of fuel treatments, and facilitating further refinement in physics-based fire modeling.

Fuel treatments, Fire behavior, Modeling, Physics-based, WFDS, FIRETEC, FuelManager

Parsons, R.A., Pimont, F., Wells, L. et al. Annals of Forest Science (2018) 75: 7.

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