Philip Zylstra

Philip Zylstra
Curtin University · School of Molecular and Life Sciences

B.App.Sc Environmental Science, PhD

About

41
Publications
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Introduction
My focus is on the drivers of fire behaviour and the way that they translate into decision-making concepts such as risk or the notion of flammability. To this end I have developed a process-driven model that gives detailed, dynamic fire behaviour predictions by calculating the capacity for flame to ignite new leaves, branches or plants across the spaces between them, as determined by the leaf traits of the component plants. Details of this model are in my thesis, with papers in progress.

Publications

Publications (41)
Article
Full-text available
The influence of plant traits on forest fire behaviour has evolutionary, ecological and management implications, but is poorly understood and frequently discounted. We use a process model to quantify that influence and provide validation in a diverse range of eucalypt forests burnt under varying conditions. Measured height of consumption was compar...
Article
Full-text available
Floral fire ecology incorporates a feedback loop in which plants influence fire behaviour and fire behaviour influences the flora. Recent advances in fire behaviour modelling have quantified many plant‐based drivers of fire behaviour, but the consequent ecological effects of this have not yet been adequately modelled mechanistically. Here, I introd...
Article
Full-text available
As climatic changes continue to drive increases in the frequency and severity of forest fires, it is critical to understand all of the factors influencing the risk of forest fire. Using a spatial dataset of areas burnt over a 58-year period in a 528,343-ha study area, we examined three possible drivers of flammability dynamics. These were: that for...
Technical Report
Full-text available
Cooperating with forests could hugely reduce bushfire risk, even in a changing climate Many forests regulate their own flammability, creating environments that make bushfires far less likely – unless they are interrupted. The newly published finding in the journal Environmental Research Letters answers long-held beliefs that forests must be burned...
Article
Full-text available
The Bendethera Shrublands are a unique and fascinating ecological community restricted to less than 100 hectares on a series of steep limestone outcrops in the Deua River valley. The community is characterised by a dense shrub layer to around 7.5 metres height and dominated by Acacia covenyi, a locally endemic species, whose blue foliage forms a st...
Article
Full-text available
Research highlights—Feedbacks between fire severity, vegetation structure and ecosystem flammability are understudied in highly fire-tolerant forests that are dominated by epicormic resprouters. We examined the relationships between the severity of two overlapping fires in a resprouting eucalypt forest and the subsequent effect of fire severity on...
Article
Full-text available
Globally, collapse of ecosystems—potentially irreversible change to ecosystem structure, composition and function—imperils biodiversity, human health and well‐being. We examine the current state and recent trajectories of 19 ecosystems, spanning 58° of latitude across 7.7 M km2, from Australia's coral reefs to terrestrial Antarctica. Pressures from...
Article
Full-text available
ContextFire behaviour research has largely focused on dry ecosystems that burn frequently, with far less attention on wetter forests. Yet, the impacts of fire in wet forests can be high and therefore understanding the drivers of fire in these systems is vital.Objectives We sought to identify and rank by importance the factors plausibly driving flam...
Technical Report
Full-text available
The historical response to multiple tragic fire events has been to hold inquiries that invariably recommend an increase in existing mitigation efforts. In light of the scale of the current bushfire crisis, however, a genuine scientific response requires that we no longer simply attempt more of what we have always done, but that we question whether...
Technical Report
Full-text available
Provides a brief summary of the response of PLoS One to the memo by Cruz and Sullivan criticising my paper.
Experiment Findings
Full-text available
It is widely assumed that long unburnt forests are the most flammable areas; this research found that the opposite was true for forests of the Australian Alps.
Conference Paper
It has been widely accepted that bushfire risk increases with time since fire, reflecting the accumulation of fuels. The link between fuel load and fire risk is however tenuous, dependent on grey literature and frequently at odds with the peer-reviewed material. This is problematic, as the question of flammability dynamics is fundamental to our cur...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
For decades, forest flammability has been linked to fuel load – the weight of fine twigs, leaves, and bark in a forest. Accordingly, the paradigm of fuel reduc- tion by burning has pervaded Australian thinking, providing a single answer to every question of fire risk reduction. At its core however lies only a rough theory described by the author as...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Fire can considerably increase the landscape's vulnerability to flooding and erosion, which is in part caused by fire-induced soil heating, vegetation removal and resulting hydrological changes. While the magnitude of these fire effects and ecosystem responses is frequently studied, there is still little attention for the fundamental mechanisms tha...
Data
Full-text available
Technical Report
Full-text available
Overview Cruz and Sullivan provide a series of assertions about our paper [1] (modified version posted at http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/comment?id=10.1371/annotation/1e5e9d98‐5e72‐4e34‐ ae56‐2538704be8ce), which attempt to cast doubt on the overall validity of our study and the Forest Flammability model. Here we examine, in turn, the sub...
Article
Full-text available
The revegetation of cleared landscapes with woody plants (termed “environmental planting”) has the potential to sequester carbon (C), provide habitat, and increase biodiversity and connectivity. These environmental values are potentially offset by an increased fire hazard posed by revegetation. There is a need to understand the influence environmen...
Data
Sub-models used in the FFM for this study. (PDF)
Data
Species leaf traits used in the FFM for this study. (PDF)
Data
Plant and flame traits, and resultant heating as shown in S2 Fig. (PDF)
Data
Observed and predicted flame heights. (PDF)
Article
Full-text available
Numerous studies have attempted to address the utility of LiDAR as a tool for measuring fuel inputs to fire behaviour models, however the direct effect of this approach on fire behaviour prediction requires quantification. We used a biophysical, mechanistic model validated for eucalypt forest in SE Australia to assess the improvement in prediction...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Live fuel moisture content (LFMC) is a parameter that affects the flammability of plants, and the capacity to measure it remotely makes it an accessible variable for use in fire behaviour models. Although the effect of LFMC on the flammability of fuel particles has clear theoretical support however, the way in which this relates to fire behaviour i...
Article
Full-text available
Numerous factors have been found to affect the flammability of individual leaves and plant parts; however the way in which these factors relate to whole plant flammability, fire behaviour and the overall risk imposed by fire is not straightforward. Similarly, although the structure of plant communities is known to affect the flammability of the sta...
Article
Full-text available
It is widely assumed that regardless of the community in question, recently burnt forests are less flammable than long-unburnt areas, so that the fire-flammability feedback is negative. An alternative hypothesis has been proposed for Snowgum forest/woodland based on deterministic fire behaviour modelling, describing a positive feedback where mature...
Technical Report
Full-text available
Australian Standard AS 3959_2009 provides a methodology for estimating the amount of heat that a bushfire flame will radiate onto a structure, however it does not factor in the role that vegetation has in blocking some of that incident radiation. This report addresses that shortfall. The obscuration profile of the vegetation is calculated from the...
Thesis
Full-text available
Wildland fire has considerable influence on both natural and anthropogenic environments and consequently, the ability to understand, predict and manage it has become a growing priority as human populations have increased their influence upon and awareness of the natural, fire prone environment. Despite this, in Australia a disconnection and failure...
Article
Full-text available
'Flammability' means different things to different people. Scientifically, it can be defined through three component variables that describe how well the fuel ignites (ignitibility), how well it burns (combustibility) and how long it burns (sustainability). The 'fuel' may be a plant organ, a whole plant or a plant community. While the terms ignitib...

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Projects

Projects (3)
Project
To use biophysical fire-behaviour modelling to investigate the impact of canopy closure on open-forest flammability, and the potential for a positive feedback that suppresses future fire activity, thereby reinforcing further canopy closure.
Project
Transition the emotive rejection of new science around forest flammability into a more sound, evidence-based discussion.
Project
To quantify the influence of plant traits on the dimensions and movement of flames burning forest and shrubland ecosystems. Traits include crown dimensions, leaf packing and arrangement, leaf dimensions, chemistry, density, and moisture.