Implications of foliar terpene content and hydration on leaf flammability of Quercus ilex and Pinus halepensis

G. A. Alessio, J. Peñuelas, M. De Lillis, J. Llusià

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    We investigated the implications of foliar hydration and terpene content on leaf flammability in two widely distributed forest species of the Mediterranean basin, Quercus ilex, which does not store terpenes, and Pinus halepensis, a terpene-storing species. The experiments were carried out in plants grown under different water regimes that generated a wide range of foliar hydration and terpene contents. We monitored the temperatures and time elapsed to reach the smoke, pyrolysis and flame phases. Smoke appeared much earlier (37 versus 101 s) and at lower temperatures (96 versus 139 °C) in Quercus ilex than in Pinus halepensis. Quercus ilex reached pyrolysis earlier than Pinus halepensis (278 versus 338 s) but at the same temperature (365-371 °C). There were no significant differences in time elapsed nor in temperature for flammability (386-422 s; 505-487 °C in both species). Quercus ilex had lower water hydration than Pinus halepensis (41 versus 100%) and the leaf content of terpenes in Quercus was three orders of magnitude lower. The results of this study show no differences in the flame phase between the two species and the absence of a significant relationship between temperature and elapsed time of the different flammability phases in relation to monoterpene content; thus indicating that the role of monoterpenes in flammability phases is smaller than that of the water content. This, however, does not exclude the effects of terpene content on plant combustibility and fire propagation once fires start. © 2008 German Botanical Society and The Royal Botanical Society of the Netherlands.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)123-128
    JournalPlant Biology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008


    • Fire
    • Foliar hydration
    • Leaf flammability
    • Pinus halepensis
    • Quercus ilex
    • Terpene content
    • Water content


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