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Air Quality Impacts from Prescribed Forest Fires under Different Management Practices

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journal contribution
posted on 15.04.2008, 00:00 authored by Di Tian, Yuhang Wang, Michelle Bergin, Yongtao Hu, Yongqiang Liu, Armistead G. Russell
Large amounts of air pollutants are emitted during prescribed forest fires. Such emissions and corresponding air quality impacts can be modulated by different forest management practices. The impacts of changing burning seasons and frequencies and of controlling emissions during smoldering on regional air quality in Georgia are quantified using source-oriented air quality modeling, with modified emissions from prescribed fires reflecting effects of each practice. Equivalent fires in the spring and winter are found to have a greater impact on PM2.5 than those in summer, though ozone impacts are larger from spring and summer fires. If prescribed fires are less frequent, more biofuel is burnt in each fire, leading to larger emissions and air quality impacts per fire. For example, emissions from a fire with a 5-year fire return interval (FRI) are 72% larger than those from a fire of the same acreage with a 2-year FRI. However, corresponding long-term regional impacts are reduced with the longer FRI since the annual burned area is reduced. Total emissions for fires in Georgia with a 5-year FRI are 32% less than those with a 2-year FRI. Smoldering emissions can lead to approximately 1.0 or 1.9 µg/m3 of PM2.5 in the Atlanta PM2.5 nonattainment area during March 2002.