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How terpene content affects fuel flammability of wildland–urban interface vegetation

Abstract : Among plant characteristics promoting flammability, terpenes have received far less attention, especially regarding the vegetation surrounding housing. Here, mono-, sesqui-, and diterpenes were screened in live and dead leaves of ornamental species found in Wildland-Urban Interfaces (WUI) of southeastern France. Terpene content and composition were compared among species and between fuel types. Their influence on flammability was assessed through several variables and compared to that of leaf thickness and moisture content. Six of the 17 species examined contained terpenes. Terpene diversity and content differed among species but not between fuel types. Mono-, sesqui-, and diterpenes (especially the highly concentrated compounds) were involved to varying degrees in both leaf and litter flammability. Their effects could be the opposite according to the flammability variable and the fuel type considered. Leaf sesquiterpene content and litter total terpene content had the strongest influence on maximum temperature; the former also mainly drove leaf flaming duration. The other flammability variables were more strongly associated with either moisture content or leaf thickness. Our findings underlined the idea that fire management in WUI must also acknowledge the potential for ornamental species containing terpenes, such as P. halepensis, in affecting fire behaviour.
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Bastien Romero, Catherine Fernandez, Caroline Lecareux, Elena Ormeño, Anne Ganteaume. How terpene content affects fuel flammability of wildland–urban interface vegetation. International Journal of Wildland Fire, CSIRO Publishing, 2019, 28 (8), pp.614-627. ⟨10.1071/WF18210⟩. ⟨hal-02281289⟩

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