The wildland fuel cell concept: an approach to characterize fine-scale variation in fuels and fire in frequently burned longleaf pine forests
In ecosystems with frequent surface fire regimes, fire and fuel heterogeneity has been largely overlooked
owing to the lack of unburned patches and the difficulty in measuring fire behavior at fine scales (0.1–10 m). The diverse
vegetation in these ecosystems varies at these fine scales. This diversity could be driven by the influences of local
interactions among patches of understorey vegetation and canopy-supplied fine fuels on fire behavior, yet no method we
know of can capture fine-scale fuel and fire measurements such that these relationships could be rigorously tested. We
present here an original method for inventorying of fine-scale fuels and
pine forests of the south-eastern USA. Using ground-based LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) with traditional fuel
inventory approaches, we characterized within-fuel bed variation into discrete patches, termed wildland fuel cells, which
had distinct fuel composition, characteristics, and architecture that became spatially independent beyond 0.5m
explicit fire behavior was measured
residence times varied at similar scales to those observed for wildland fuel cells. The wildland fuels cell concept could
seamlessly connect empirical studies with numerical models or cellular automata models of fire behavior, representing a
promising means to better predict within-burn heterogeneity and fire effects.
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