Defense of a doctoral thesis on forest fires by Stéfano Arellano

On 28 January, Stéfano Arellano Pérez defended his PhD thesis, entitled "Characterization of tree canopy fuel by means of remote sensors and evaluation of the effect of clearings on the potential behaviour and severity of fire in pine forests in NW Spain" in the EPSE, Lugo.

This doctoral research was conducted under the guidance of the UXAFORES research group, to which both the author of the thesis and one of his supervisors, Dr Ana Daría Ruiz González, belong. The research was undertaken in collaboration with the Lourizán Forestry Research Center (Pontevedra) through the involvement, as co-supervisor, of Dr José Antonio Vega, who led the forest protection department of the centre for many years and where Dr Stéfano Arellano began his research activity. This collaboration, maintained over a number of years, has led, among other achievements, to the publication in 2017 of a book entitled "Photo-Guide to Forest Fuels of Galicia and Associated Fire Behavior".

The thesis tribunal was chaired by Dr María Mercedes Guijarro Guzmán (CIFOR- INIA, Madrid), Dr Brigite Roxo Botequim (the Higher Agronomy Institute, University of Lisbon) and Professor Dr Roque Rodríguez Soalleiro (USC).

The doctoral thesis reports the development of models for estimating the fuel load available for fire propagation in the tree canopy and how this is distributed between the apex and the base of the canopies. The models were developed using both LiDAR data and field-measured stand variables. In addition, models for estimating surface forest fuel and tree canopy characteristics that affect the combustibility of the formation were constructed using Sentinel-2A satellite images. The use of models based on remote sensors will enable mapping of the potential risk of crown fire under different weather scenarios.

On the other hand, the medium-term effects of clearing on surface fuel, the potential behaviour and severity of fire, as well as the ability of burnt stands to protect the soil from post-fire erosion, were also evaluated.

The research was carried out in pine forests in northwestern Spain, and the results obtained provide new information on forest fuels in relation to expected fire behaviour, which is very useful for both forest fire management and forest management in general.

The thesis qualified for international mention and was awarded the maximum grade.

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