Research | Influence of Abiotic Stress on the Flammability of Chilean Vegetation

By: Pedro Reszka

Published on October 17, 2022

Within the framework of the ACT210052 project, funded by the Chilean National Research and Development Agency (ANID), we are studying the influence of abiotic stress on the flammability of Chilean vegetation, both native and exotic. For this, two devices fully developed in Chile are being used that allow different variables related to flammability to be measured in a repeatable manner and under controlled conditions: the SCALA calorimeter (Sensible Heat Calorimetry Apparatus), which reproduces conditions of heat flows from flames, which we call as continuous ignition; and the I-FIT (Idealized Firebrand Ignition Test) device, which reproduces conditions of ash attacks on vegetation, or discontinuous ignition.

In both devices, heat fluxes are imposed on samples of vegetation or structural fuels, and we are able to measure variables such as the time it takes for the sample to achieve ignition, as well as the energy released during the combustion reaction, the which is called “heat release rate”, which corresponds to the most important variable in terms of the risk of a fire.

To determine the state of the vegetation, in relation to abiotic stress, we are studying biophysical and biochemical variables such as the concentration of photosynthetic pigments, moisture content, and reflective spectrum, among others.

The work team is made up of scientists from different disciplines, including biochemists, ecologists, forestry engineers, and electronic, mechanical, and industrial engineers. The consortium of universities includes Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez, Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María, Universidad de la Frontera, as well as the University of California – Berkeley, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, University College London, University of Sao Paulo, CSIRO and INRAE. 

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