Document Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


Science & Environmental Policy


alifornia's urban/wildland interface continues to grow as rising populations expand the boundaries of urban areas. Pre-fire management planning is becoming increasingly important for protecting human life and structures, as well as our natural resources. Pre-fire planning is dependent on the ability to predict the temporal and spatial distribution of fire danger. Assessing fire danger involves consideration of weather, fuel, and topography. Live plant moisture is an important contributing factor to the propensity of an area to ignite and burn. Ecosystem modelling, in conjunction with a GIS database, offers an consistent, manageable means of predicting fire danger both spatially and temporally. An ecosystem model, FOREST-BGC (BGC) was used in this study to simulate the effects of weather, topography, and soil and vegetation characteristics on water stress in six local ecosystems and five regional sites. Validation of the model for accurately duplicating water stress in local ecosystems was evaluated by comparing modelled and measured leaf water potential (LWP) measurements. Modelled LWP for regional sites was compared to Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) ratings. Seasonal patterns of water stress were closely replicated for three of the six local sites, two chaparral sites and an oak woodland (R² >= 0.75; p > 0.05). Other local sites (riparian, Monterey Pine) have soil characteristics and hydrologic dynamics which require more in-depth examination before the model can be better parameterized for LWP simulations. Comparisons with the KBDI reinforce the importance of LAI on the hydrologic dynamics within an ecosystem. While the KBDI appears to be a good general indicator for fire danger on a regional scale, it would not seem to be meaningful when developing local scale pre-fire management plans. Further field data collection and site characterization is necessary to bring BGC into alignment with the local riparian and Monterey Pine sites prior to establishing an integrated GIS-ecosystem modelling tool for predicting fire danger ratings.


Capstone Project (B.S.) Earth Systems Science & Policy Institute

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