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Evaluation des effets des incendies sur la capacité de protection des forêts contre les chutes de blocs dans les Alpes françaises

Abstract : Rockfalls are a major natural hazard in the French Alps due to their high probability of spatial and temporal occurrence. Forests constitute an efficient nature-based solution to mitigate this hazard while protecting human lives and assets. However, this ecosystem service may be disrupted by others natural hazards such as wildfires likely to be more frequent and intense in the current and future context of climate changes.This PhD thesis proposes to assess the effects of fires on the protection capability of forests against rockfalls in the French Alps.A methodology to evaluate the protection capability of a forest against rockfalls is first developed. It consists in modeling rockfalls propagations on 3886 forest plots taken in the French Alps to calculate three quantitative indicators that assess the reduction of the frequency (BARI), the intensity (MIRI) and the overall reduction (ORPI) of rockfalls due to the presence of a forest. These indicators are used to identify the predominant forest variables for assessing the protective effect: the length of forest along the slope, the basal area and the mean diameter. Forest stands with a heterogeneous distribution of diameters and made up of several tree species generally offer a better protection than monospecific and regular stands, thus underlining the influence of forest diversity. This work shows that coppices have the highest protection capabilities, followed by hight stands dominated by deciduous species and mixed stands; coniferous stands coming last.Spatio-temporal trends in fire weather in the French Alps are investigated over the period 1959-2015 and reveal a major contrast between Southern Alps which experienced a strong increase (in intensity, frequency, duration and seasonality) especially at high elevation, and Northern Alps, where a slight increase at low elevation and no significant trends at high elevation are observed. These results are then used to define three types of fires (winter, summer, and dry summer) for which post-fire tree mortality is studied at the tree and forest stands levels. These analyses show that only summer fires are likely to significantly affect the forest ecosystems, particularly at low elevations where deciduous stands (especially coppice) dominate.The effect of fires on the protection capabilities of forests is assessed by comparing rockfalls propagation simulations without fire to simulations after each type of fire in which the trees with a high post-fire mortality are not taken into account. The ORPI values for each forest plot and fire type are thus calculated and compared to the reference scenario without fire thus making it possible to quantitatively assess the reduction of the protection capabilities. Low elevation stands, subject to warmer and drier climatic conditions, show reductions of the protective effect in the range 60-100%. It mainly concerns coppices and deciduous stands. At high elevation, the reduction is in the range 30- 65%.In conclusion, this PhD thesis proposes an original method to quantify the protection capabilities of a forest against rockfalls before and after a fire and improve the knowledge of these two natural hazards and their associated risks. The multi-hazard analysis conducted at the end of the thesis makes it possible to understand the potential cascading effects in the main forest types and for four bioclimatically homogeneous territories of the French Alps.
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Sylvain Dupire. Evaluation des effets des incendies sur la capacité de protection des forêts contre les chutes de blocs dans les Alpes françaises. Géographie. Université Grenoble Alpes, 2018. Français. ⟨NNT : 2018GREAI020⟩. ⟨tel-02607429v2⟩

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