Fire Ecology, 2010
Volume 6, Issue 1
A Way Forward for Fire-Caused Tree Mortality Prediction: Modeling a Physiological Consequence of Fire
Authors: Kathleen Kavanagh, Matthew B. Dickinson, and Anthony S. Bova
Current operational methods for predicting tree mortality from fire injury are regression-based models that only indirectly consider underlying causes and, thus, have limited generality. A better understanding of the physiological consequences of tree heating and injury are needed to develop biophysical process models that can make predictions under changing or novel conditions. As an illustration of the benefits that may arise from including physiological processes in models of fire-caused tree mortality, we develop a testable, biophysical hypothesis for explaining pervasive patterns in conifer injury and functional impairment in response to fires. We use a plume model to estimate vapor pressure deficits (D) in tree canopies during surface fires and show that D are sufficiently high to cause embolism in canopy branches. The potential implications of plume conditions and tree response are discussed.