Evaluating potential changes in fire risk from Eucalyptus plantings in the Southern United States
Renewed interest in short-rotation woody crops for bioenergy and bioproducts has prompted a reevaluation of the Eucalyptus species for the southern United States. One question that arises about the potential effects of introducing a nonnative species is what effect will there be on fire behavior. Our approximate answer based on modeling fire behavior using the Fuel Characteristic Classification System is that surface fire behavior in young stands differs little from surface fires common to pine plantations in the southern Coastal Plain. By the age of 9, the absence of a shrub layer, along with an increased height to live crown, reduced initiation potential despite increased bark shedding. When a shrub layer was introduced in the model, the initiation potential became equivalent to common Pinus fuelbeds. If a crown is ignited, however, the potentials for transmissivity and spread are very high, and the potential for crown fire behavior is more severe. Our modeling effort suggests that fire behavior at the stand level differs little from current conditions and points to the importance of avoiding the development of a shrub layer. Stands managed on short rotation (less than 10 years) will likely be harvested before bark shedding presents a significant spotting problem.