Exploring phosphate effects on leaf flammability using a physical chemistry model

Fiona R. Scarff*, Brian F. Gray, Mark Westoby

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    13 Citations (Scopus)


    Some plants have traits that cause them to be more flammable than others, influencing wildfire spread and fire regimes. Some of these plant traits have been identified through laboratory-scale experiments. We built a numerical model that could quantify the extent of these effects on flammability. Here we present that model and use it to investigate the effect of phosphate content on the flammability of leaves. The model used finite-element methods and was based on heat transfer and thermal decomposition kinetics. Predictions were compared with three laboratory experiments involving ignition of leaf or cellulose samples. We then ran simulations of two situations through which leaf phosphate could influence wildfire spread: horizontal fire spread and crowning. The ignition time and maximum fuel gap that could be bridged by a flame front was predicted. Two key results emerged. (1) The importance of leaf phosphate in laboratory studies of ignition depends on the rate of sample heating, with the strongest effect under slow heating. (2) In the context of wildfires, phosphate was predicted to have modest effects compared with other plant traits influencing moisture content, leaf construction and angle of display. Journal compilation

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1042-1051
    Number of pages10
    JournalInternational Journal of Wildland Fire
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


    Dive into the research topics of 'Exploring phosphate effects on leaf flammability using a physical chemistry model'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this