Encyclopedia of Wildfires and Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) Fires

Living Edition
| Editors: Samuel L. Manzello

Slope and Terrain

  • Kimberley OpieEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-51727-8_240-1



Terrain is the vertical and horizontal dimensions of a landscape and slope describes the change in elevation over a distance in some direction.


The effect of slope and terrain on wildfires and wildland urban interface (WUI) fires is multifaceted. Wildfire occurs in a physical space and must obey physical laws pertaining to a combination of weather, fuel, and topography (Countryman 1972). Topography refers to the arrangement of natural and artificial features of the landscape. Slope and terrain are elements of topography.

Measuring Slope and Terrain

The term terrain describes a landscape surface horizontally and vertically. Typically, the vertical component of terrain is called elevation. Elevation is a height with respect to mean sea level or a mathematical surface (datum) that estimates the mean sea level. Measuring elevation can be done manually using land surveying techniques to achieve submillimeter accuracy or...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Acharya BK, Chettri B, Vijayan L (2011) Distribution pattern of trees along an elevation gradient of Eastern Himalaya, India. Acta Oecol 37(4):329–336.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actao.2011.03.005CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson L (2018) The constraints of slope on land development. In: Planning the built environment. Routledge, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bell N (2003) Planning and design for bushfire protection. In: Environment design guide. Royal Australian Institute of Architects. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/26148827
  4. Buckman III JM (2005) Chief fire officer’s desk reference. Jones & Bartlett Learning, MassachusettsGoogle Scholar
  5. Countryman CM (1972) The fire environment concept. Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station, CaliforniaGoogle Scholar
  6. Lassueur T, Joost S, Randin CF (2006) Very high resolution digital elevation models: do they improve models of plant species distribution? Ecol Model 198(1–2):139–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. McArthur AG (1967) Fire behaviour in eucalypt forests. Leaflet no. 107. CSIRO, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  8. Tolhurst K, Cheney NP (1999) Department of natural resources and environment. Victoria, AustraliaGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Crown 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Land & WaterCSIROMelbourneAustralia

Section editors and affiliations

  • Kuibin Zhou
    • 1
  1. 1.Nanjing Tech UniversityNanjingChina