Balancing fire risk and human thermal comfort in fire-prone urban landscapes

Autoři: Tania A. MacLeod aff001;  Amy K. Hahs aff002;  Trent D. Penman aff001
Působiště autorů: School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences, Bushfire Behaviour and Management, The University of Melbourne, Creswick, Victoria, Australia aff001;  Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology (ARCUE), c/o School of BioSciences, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia aff002
Vyšlo v časopise: PLoS ONE 14(12)
Kategorie: Research Article
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0225981


Vegetation in urban areas provides many essential ecosystem services. These services may be indirect, such as carbon sequestration and biological diversity, or direct, including microclimate regulation and cultural values. As the global population is becoming ever more urbanized these services will be increasingly vital to the quality of life in urban areas. Due to the combined effects of shading and evapotranspiration, trees have the potential to cool urban microclimates and mitigate urban heat, reduce thermal discomfort and help to create comfortable outdoor spaces for people. Understory vegetation in the form of shrubs and grass layers are also increasingly recognized for the positive role they play in human aesthetics and supporting biodiversity. However, in fire-prone urban landscapes there are risks associated with having denser and more complex vegetation in public open spaces. We investigated the effects of plant selection and planting arrangement on fire risk and human thermal comfort using the Forest Flammability Model and Physiological Equivalent Temperature (PET), to identify how planting arrangement can help balance the trade-offs between these risks and benefits. Our research demonstrated the importance of vertical separation of height strata and suggests that Clumped and Continuous planting arrangements are the most effective way of keeping complex vegetation in public open space to deliver the greatest human thermal comfort benefit while minimizing potential fire behaviour. This study provides an example of how existing research tools in multiple ecological fields can be combined to inform positive outcomes for people and nature in urban landscapes.

Klíčová slova:

Fire engineering – Fire suppression technology – Fuels – Humidity – Shrubs – Summer – Trees – Urban areas


1. Reisinger A, Kitching RL, Chiew F, Hughes L, Newton PCD, Schuster SS, et al. Australasia. In: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part B: Regional Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,. Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; 2014.

2. Hoegh-Guldberg O, D. Jacob, M. Taylor, M. Bindi, S. Brown, I. Camilloni, et al. Impacts of 1.5ºC Global Warming on Natural and Human Systems.: IPCC; 2018.

3. Loughner CP, Allen DJ, Zhang DL, Pickering KE, Dickerson RR, Landry L. Roles of Urban Tree Canopy and Buildings in Urban Heat Island Effects: Parameterization and Preliminary Results. Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology. 2012;51(10):1775–93.

4. Bowler DE, Buyung-Ali L, Knight TM, Pullin AS. Urban greening to cool towns and cities: A systematic review of the empirical evidence. Landscape and Urban Planning. 2010;97(3):147–55.

5. Shashua-Bar L, Pearlmutter D, Erell E. The cooling efficiency of urban landscape strategies in a hot dry climate. Landscape and Urban Planning. 2009;92(3–4):179–86.

6. Chen Y, Wong NH. Thermal benefits of city parks. Energy and Buildings. 2006;38(2):105–

7. Bolund P, Hunhammar S. Ecosystem services in urban areas. Ecological Economics. 1999;29(2):293–301.

8. Coutts AM, White EC, Tapper NJ, Beringer J, Livesley SJ. Temperature and human thermal comfort effects of street trees across three contrasting street canyon environments. Theoretical and Applied Climatology. 2016;124(1):55–68.

9. Buxton M, Haynes R, Mercer D, Butt A. Vulnerability to Bushfire Risk at Melbourne's Urban Fringe: The Failure of Regulatory Land Use Planning. Geographical Research. 2011;49(1):1–12.

10. Teague B, McLeod R, Pascoe S. 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission—Final Report Summary. Melbourne: Parliament of Victoria; 2010.

11. Gibbons P, van Bommel L, Gill AM, Cary GJ, Driscoll DA, Bradstock RA, et al. Land Management Practices Associated with House Loss in Wildfires. Plos One. 2012;7(1).

12. Penman TD, Bradstock RA, Price OF. Reducing wildfire risk to urban developments: Simulation of cost-effective fuel treatment solutions in south eastern Australia. Environmental Modelling & Software. 2014;52:166–75.

13. DPCD. Advisory Note 39—Amendment VC83—Bushfire protection: Vegetation exemptions. In: DPCD, editor. Melbourne: Victorian State Government; 2011.

14. Holland M, March A, Yu J, Jenkins A. Land Use Planning and Bushfire Risk: CFA Referrals and the February 2009 Victorian Fire Area. Urban Policy and Research. 2013;31(1):41–54.

15. DELWP. Victorian Planning Provisions. In: Department of Environment L, Water and Planning, editor. Melbourne2018.

16. Attiwill PM, Adams MA. Mega-fires, inquiries and politics in the eucalypt forests of Victoria, south-eastern Australia. Forest Ecology and Management. 2013;294:45–53.

17. ABS. Population Projections, Australia 2012 (base) to 2101: Commonwealth of Australia 2016 [updated 21/03/2016. Available from:

18. DHS. January 2009 Heatwave in Victoria: An Assessment of Health Impacts. Melbourne, Australia: Victorian Government Department of Human Services, Services VGDoH; 2009.

19. Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Protecting human health and safetly during severe and extreme heat events: A national framework, Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Austalian Government, 2011.

20. BOM. Weather station directory, Bureau of Meteorology: Australian Government; 2016 [updated 01/07/2016; cited 2016 2016]. Available from:

21. DELWP. Victorian Spatial Data Directory 2016 [updated 05/05/2016. Available from:

22. Zylstra P. Forest Flammability-Modelling and Managing a Complex System [Ph.D.]: The University of New South Wales 2011.

23. Gill AM, Scott LS. Scientific and social challenges for the management of fire-prone wildland–urban interfaces. Environmental Research Letters. 2009;4(3):034014.

24. Alexander ME. Fire behaviour as a factor in forest and rural fire suppression. New Zealand: Forest Research, Rotorua, in association with the National Rural Fire Authority, Wellington; 2000.

25. Bradstock RA, Hammill KA, Collins L, Price O. Effects of weather, fuel and terrain on fire severity in topographically diverse landscapes of south-eastern Australia. Landscape Ecology. 2010;25(4):607–19.

26. Garnier E, Stahl U, Laporte M-A, Kattge J, Mougenot I, Kühn I, et al. Towards a thesaurus of plant characteristics: an ecological contribution. 2017;105(2):298–309.

27. Kattge J, Diaz S, Lavorel S. TRY–a global database of plant traits. 2011;17(9):2905–35.

28. Höppe P. The physiological equivalent temperature–a universal index for the biometeorological assessment of the thermal environment. International Journal of Biometeorology. 1999;43(2):71–5. doi: 10.1007/s004840050118 10552310

29. Parsons K. Maintaining health, comfort and productivity in heat waves. Global Health Action. 2009;2:39–45.

30. Matzarakis A, Amelung B. Physiological equivalent temperature as indicator for impacts of climate change on thermal comfort of humans. Thomson MC, Beniston M, GarciaHerrera R, editors 2008. 161–72 p.

31. Matzarakis A, Rutz F, Mayer H. Modelling radiation fluxes in simple and complex environments—application of the RayMan model. International Journal of Biometeorology. 2007;51(4):323–34. doi: 10.1007/s00484-006-0061-8 17093907

32. Abdel-Ghany AM, Al-Helal IM, Shady MR. Human Thermal Comfort and Heat Stress in an Outdoor Urban Arid Environment: A Case Study. Advances in Meteorology. 2013.

33. Fröhlich D, Matzarakis A. Modeling of changes in thermal bioclimate: examples based on urban spaces in Freiburg, Germany. Theoretical Applied Climatology. 2013;111:547–58.

34. Lin TP, Matzarakis A, Hwang RL. Shading effect on long-term outdoor thermal comfort. Building and Environment. 2010;45(1):213–21.

35. Matzarakis A, Rutz F, Mayer H. Modelling radiation fluxes in simple and complex environments: basics of the RayMan model. International Journal of Biometeorlogy. 2009;54:131–9.

36. Bleta A, Nastos PT, Matzarakis A. Assessment of bioclimatic conditions on Crete Island, Greece. Regional Environmental Change. 2014;14(5):1967–81.

37. He XD, Miao SG, Shen SH, Li J, Zhang BZ, Zhang ZY, et al. Influence of sky view factor on outdoor thermal environment and physiological equivalent temperature. International Journal of Biometeorology. 2015;59(3):285–97. doi: 10.1007/s00484-014-0841-5 24842520

38. Menning KM, Stephens SL. Fire climbing in the forest: A semiqualitative, semiquantitative approach to assessing ladder fuel hazards. Western Journal of Applied Forestry. 2007;22(2):88–93.

39. Hines F, Tolhurst KG, Wilson A, McCarthy GJ. Overall fuel hazard assessment guide: 4th edition July 2010. Melbourne: Department of Sustainability and Environment, Environment VGDoSa; 2010 July 2010. Report No.: 82.

40. CFA. Landscaping for Bushfire: Garden Design and Plant Selection. Country Fire Authority. Melbourne, Victoria.2011.

41. von Arx G, Graf Pannatier E, Thimonier A, Rebetez M. Microclimate in forests with varying leaf area index and soil moisture: potential implications for seedling establishment in a changing climate. Journal of Ecology. 2013;101:1201–1213.

42. Souch C, Souch C. The effect of trees on summertime below canopy urban climates: a case study, Bloomington, Indiana. Journal of Arboriculture. 1993;15(5):303–312.

43. Randall C, Hermansen-Baez L and Acomb G. Fire in the Wildland-Urban Interface: Reducing Wildfire Risk while Achieving other Landscaping Goals. University of Florida and USDA Forest Service Southern Centre for Wildand-Urban Interface Research and Information, Florida; 2004.

44. ACT. Fire Wise Home Gardens, ACT Planning and Land Authority. Canberra: Australian Capital Territory Government; 2005.

45. RFS. Planning for Bush Fire Protection. NSW Rural Fire Service; 2006.

46. Chladil M, Sheridan J. Fire Retardant Garden Plants for the Urban Fringe and Rural Areas In: Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens FT, Tasmania Fire Service, Parks and Wildlife Service Tasmania, editor.: Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, Forestry Tasmania, Tasmania Fire Service, Parks and Wildlife Service Tasmania; 2006.

47. Doran JDR, Cotton K.; Long, Alan J. Fire in the wildland-urban interface: Selecting and maintaining firewise plants for landscaping. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences; USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station, Southern Center for Wildland-Urban Interface Research and Information.; 2004.

48. Agee JK, Bahro B, Finney MA, Omi PN, Sapsis DB, Skinner CN, et al. The use of shaded fuelbreaks in landscape fire management. Forest Ecology and Management. 2000;127(1–3):55–66.

49. Murray BR, Hardstaff LK, Phillips ML. Differences in Leaf Flammability, Leaf Traits and Flammability-Trait Relationships between Native and Exotic Plant Species of Dry Sclerophyll Forest. Plos One. 2013;8(11).

50. Krix DW, Murray BR. Landscape variation in plant leaf flammability is driven by leaf traits responding to environmental gradients. Ecosphere. 2018;9(2).

51. White RH, Zipperer WC. Testing and classification of individual plants for fire behaviour: plant selection for the wildlandurban interface %J International Journal of Wildland Fire. 2010;19(2):213–27.

52. De Lillis M, Bianco PM, Loreto F. The influence of leaf water content and isoprenoids on flammability of some Mediterranean woody species. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 2009;18(2):203–12.

53. Threlfall CG, Williams NSG, Hahs AK, Livesley SJ. Approaches to urban vegetation management and the impacts on urban bird and bat assemblages. Landscape and Urban Planning. 2016;153:28–39.

54. Andrew N, Rodgerson L, York A. Frequent fuel‐reduction burning: the role of logs and associated leaf litter in the conservation of ant biodiversity. Austral Ecology. 2000;25(1):99–107.

55. Le Roux DS, Ikin K, Lindenmayer DB, Manning AD, Gibbons P. The Future of Large Old Trees in Urban Landscapes. Plos One. 2014;9(6):11.

56. Stagoll K, Lindenmayer DB, Knight E, Fischer J, Manning AD. Large trees are keystone structures in urban parks. Conservation Letters. 2012;5(2):115–22.

57. Victoria Parks. River Red Gum Parks Management Plan. Melbourne: Parks Victoria; 2018.

58. Penman TD, Collins L, Syphard AD, Keeley JE, Bradstock RA. Influence of Fuels, Weather and the Built Environment on the Exposure of Property to Wildfire. Plos One. 2014;9(10):9.

59. Rosenzweig C, Solecki WD, Slosberg RB. Mitigating New York City's Heat Island With Urban Forestry, Living Roofs, and Light Surfaces—New York City Regional Heat Island Initiative Final Report 06–06. NYSERDA; 2006 October 2006.

60. Sanusi R, Johnstone D, May P, Livesley SJ. Street Orientation and Side of the Street Greatly Influence the Microclimatic Benefits Street Trees Can Provide in Summer. Journal of Environmental Quality. 2016;45(1):167–74. doi: 10.2134/jeq2015.01.0039 26828172

61. Peters EB, Hiller RV, McFadden JP. Seasonal contributions of vegetation types to suburban evapotranspiration. Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences. 2011;116.

62. Shashua-Bar L, Hoffman ME. Vegetation as a climatic component in the design of an urban street- An empiricle model for predicting the cooling effect of urban green area with tree. Energy and Buildings. 2000;31:221–35.

63. Eriksen C, Prior T. The art of learning: wildfire, amenity migration and local environmental knowledge. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 2011;20(4):612–24.

64. Gill N, Brennan-Horley C, Dun O. Investigating Residents' Bushfire Hazard Mitigation and Amenity Values through Interviews, Qualative Mapping, and Property Walks. Social Construct of Fuels in the Interface: Final Report to the Bushfires Cooperative Research Centre2014.

65. Lohm D, Davis M. Between bushfire risk and love of environment: preparedness, precariousness and survival in the narratives of urban fringe dwellers in Australia. Health Risk & Society. 2015;17(5–6):404–19.

66. Gill N, Dun O, Brennan-Horley C, Eriksen C. Landscape Preferences, Amenity, and Bushfire Risk in New South Wales, Australia. Environmental Management. 2015;56(3):738–53. doi: 10.1007/s00267-015-0525-x 25948154

67. McCaffrey S, Toman E, Stidham M, Shindler B. Social science research related to wildfire management: an overview of recent findings and future research needs. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 2013;22(1):15–24.

68. Kurz T, Baudains C. Biodiversity in the Front Yard: An Investigation of Landscape Preference in a Domestic Urban Context. Environment and Behavior. 2012;44(2):166–96.

Článek vyšel v časopise


2019 Číslo 12