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Climate change, fuel and fire behaviour in a eucalypt forest



A suite of models was used to examine the links between climate, fuels and fire behaviour in dry eucalypt forests in south-eastern Australia. Predictions from a downscaled climate model were used to drive models of fuel amount, the moisture content of fuels and two models of forest fire behaviour at a location in western Sydney in New South Wales, Australia. We found that a warming and drying climate produced lower fine fuel amounts, but greater availability of this fuel to burn due to lower moisture contents. Changing fuel load had only a small effect on fuel moisture. A warmer, drier climate increased rate of spread, an important measure of fire behaviour. Reduced fuel loads ameliorated climate-induced changes in fire behaviour for one model. Sensitivity analysis of the other fire model showed that changes in fuel amount induced changes in fire behaviour of a similar magnitude to that caused directly by sensitivity to climate. Projection of changes in fire risk requires modelling of changes in vegetation as well as changes in climate. Better understanding of climate change effects on vegetation structure is required.