A comparison of two methods for estimating conifer live foliar moisture content

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International Journal of Wildland Fire

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Foliar moisture content is an important factor regulating how wildland fires ignite in and spread through live fuels but moisture content determination methods are rarely standardised between studies. One such difference lies between the uses of rapid moisture analysers or drying ovens. Both of these methods are commonly used in live fuel research but they have never been systematically compared to ensure that they yield similar results. Here we compare the foliar moisture content of Pinus contorta (lodgepole pine) at multiple sites for an entire growing season determined using both oven-drying and rapid moisture analyser methods. We found that moisture contents derived from the rapid moisture analysers were nearly identical to oven-dried moisture contents (R2 = 0.99, n = 68) even though the rapid moisture analysers dried samples at 145°C v. oven-drying at 95°C. Mean absolute error between oven-drying and the rapid moisture analysers was low at 2.6% and bias was 0.62%. Mean absolute error was less than the within-sample variation of an individual moisture determination method and error was consistent across the range of moisture contents measured. These results suggest that live fuel moisture values derived from either of these two methods are interchangeable and it also suggests that drying temperatures used in live fuel moisture content determination may be less important than reported by other studies.