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  • (2024) Fuel types misrepresent forest structure and composition in interior British Columbia: a way forward

    Jennifer N. Baron, Paul F. Hessburg, Marc-André Parisien, Gregory A. Greene, Sarah E. Gergel and Lori D. Daniels


    Background A clear understanding of the connectivity, structure, and composition of wildland fuels is essential for effective wildfire management. However, fuel typing and mapping are challenging owing to a broad diversity of fuel conditions and their spatial and temporal heterogeneity. In Canada, fuel types and potential fire behavior are characterized using the Fire Behavior Prediction (FBP) System, which uses an association approach to categorize vegetation into 16 fuel types based on stand structure and composition. In British Columbia (BC), provincial and national FBP System fuel type maps are derived from remotely sensed forest inventory data and are widely used for wildfire operations, fuel management, and scientific research. Despite their widespread usage, the accuracy and applicability of these fuel type maps have not been formally assessed. To address this knowledge gap, we quantified the agreement between on‐site assessments and provincial and national fuel type maps in interior BC.

    Results We consistently found poor correspondence between field assessment data and both provincial and national fuel types. Mismatches were particularly frequent for (i) dry interior ecosystems, (ii) mixedwood and deciduous fuel types, and (iii) post‐harvesting conditions. For 58% of field plots, there was no suitable match to the extant fuel structure and composition. Mismatches were driven by the accuracy and availability of forest inventory data and low applicability of the Canadian FBP System to interior BC fuels.

    Conclusions The fuel typing mismatches we identified can limit scientific research, but also challenge wildfire operations and fuel management decisions. Improving fuel typing accuracy will require a significant effort in fuel inventory data and system upgrades to adequately represent the diversity of extant fuels. To more effectively link conditions to expected fire behavior outcomes, we recommend a fuel classification approach and emphasis on observed fuels and measured fire behavior data for the systems we seek to represent.

    This study was reported in the March 3, 2024 Globe and Mail: Inaccurate data on forest fuels amy stoke wildfires, study finds

    (2024) Fuel types misrepresent forest structure and composition in interior British Columbia: a way forward Jen Baron et al.pdf

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