Fire in the Venezuelan Amazon 2: environmental conditions necessary for forest fires in the evergreen rainforest of Venezuela

Christopher Uhl, J. B. Kauffman, D. L. Cummings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations

Abstract

Studied the potential for forest fires near San Carlos de Rio Negro, Venezuela, one of the wetter regions of Amazonia: 3 of the communities were tall, closed-canopy forests; had closed canopies but were short in stature; and 2 had open canopies. Fine fuels reached dynamic equilibrium moisture levels (ie no further net drying given prevailing microclimate) after only 3-4 rainless days in the open-canopy and short-stature communities and after 8-10 days in the tall, closed-canopy forest types. Fine-fuel moisture content at "equilibrium' was generally twice as high in the fall, closed-canopy forest as in the other vegetation types (20% vs 10%). Surface fires were successfully started in the open-canopy and short-stature communities after 4-6 days without rain. An average of 19-27% of the available fuels were consumed by these fires. The tall, closed-canopy forest communities would not burn, even after artificially excluding rain for 41 days. The elevated relative humidities characteristic of tall, closed-canopy forests do not permit fuels to dry to the combustion point. Under current climatic conditions, fire is only possible if the relative humidity drops to 65% or below. In some open-canopy and short-stature communities, relative humidity falls below this threshold c1 day each week, on average, but in tall, closed-canopy forest such levels may occur less than 1 day each year. -from Authors

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)176-184
Number of pages9
JournalOikos
Volume53
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 1988

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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