Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

River Flows are a Reliable Index of Forest Fire Risk in the Temperate Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, Australia

Version 1 : Received: 4 March 2021 / Approved: 4 March 2021 / Online: 4 March 2021 (18:17:00 CET)

How to cite: Bowman, D.M.; Williamson, G.J. River Flows are a Reliable Index of Forest Fire Risk in the Temperate Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, Australia. Preprints 2021, 2021030173 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202103.0173.v1). Bowman, D.M.; Williamson, G.J. River Flows are a Reliable Index of Forest Fire Risk in the Temperate Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, Australia. Preprints 2021, 2021030173 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202103.0173.v1).

Abstract

Fire risk can be defined as the probability that a fire will spread. Reliable monitoring of fire risk is essential for effective landscape management. Compilation of fire risk records enable identification of seasonal and inter-annual patterns and provide a baseline to evaluate the trajectories in response to climate change. Typically, fire risk is estimated from meteorological data. In regions with sparse meteorological station coverage environmental proxies provide important additional data stream for estimating past and current fire risk. Here we use a 60-year record of daily flows from two rivers (Franklin and Davey) in the remote Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) to characterize seasonal patterns in fire risk in temperate Eucalyptus and rainforests. We show that river flows are strongly related to landscape soil moisture estimates derived from down-scaled re-analysis of meteorological data available since 1990. To identify river flow thresholds where forests are likely to burn, we relate river flows to known forest fires that have occurred in the previously defined ecohydrological domains that surround the Franklin and Davey catchments. Our analysis shows that the fire season in the TWWHA is centered on February (70% of all years below the median threshold), with shoulders on December-January and March. Since 1954 forest fire can occur in at least one month for all but four summers in the ecohydrological domain that includes the Franklin catchment, and since 1964 fire fires could occur in at least one month in every summer in the ecohydrological domain that includes the Davey catchment. Our analysis shows that mangers can use river flows as a simple index that provide a landscape-scale forest fire risk in the TWWHA.

Subject Areas

fire risk; forest fire; ecohydrology; Eucalyptus forest; temperate rainforest

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