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Analyzing the transmission of wildfire exposure on a fire-prone landscape in Oregon, USA
- Ager, Alan A., A. Day, Michelle, Finney, Mark A., Vance-Borland, Ken, Vaillant, Nicole M.
- Forest ecology and management 2014 v.334 pp. 377-390
- biodiversity, burning, ecosystem services, fire spread, forest management, forests, fuel loading, fuels, fuels (fire ecology), habitat fragmentation, landscapes, managers, ownership, population density, risk, simulation models, weather, wildfires, Oregon
- We develop the idea of risk transmission from large wildfires and apply network analyses to understand its importance on a 0.75 million ha US national forest. Wildfires in the western US frequently burn over long distances (e.g., 20–50km) through highly fragmented landscapes with respect to ownership, fuels, management intensity, population density, and ecological conditions. The collective arrangement of fuel loadings in concert with weather and suppression efforts ultimately determines containment and the resulting fire perimeter. While spatial interactions among land parcels in terms of fire spread and intensity have been frequently noted by fire managers, quantifying risk and exposure transmission has not been attempted. In this paper we used simulation modeling to quantify wildfire transmission and built a transmission network consisting of land designations defined by national forest management designations and ownership. We then examined how a forest-wide fuel management program might change the transmission network and associated metrics. The results indicated that the size, shape, and fuel loading of management designations affected their exposure to wildfire from other designations and ownerships. Manipulating the fuel loadings via simulated forest fuel treatments reduced the wildfire transmitted among the land designations, and changed the network density as well. We discuss how wildfire transmission has implications for creating fire adapted communities, conserving biodiversity, and resolving competing demands for fire-prone ecosystem services.