Long-term changes of the Wildland-Urban Interface in the Polish Carpathians

The Wildland–Urban Interface (WUI) is the area where houses and wildland vegetation
meet or intermingle, which causes many environmental problems. The current WUI is widespread in
many regions, but it is unclear how the WUI evolved, especially in regions where both houses and
forest cover have increased. Here we compared WUI change in the Polish Carpathians for 1860 and
2013 in two study areas with different land use history. Our western study area experienced gradual
forest increase and housing growth over time, while the eastern study area was subject to a shock
due to post-war resettlements, which triggered rapid reforestation. We found that in both study
areas WUI extent increased from 1860 to 2013 (41.3 to 54.6%, and 12.2 to 33.3%, in the west and east,
respectively). However the causes of WUI growth were very different. In the western study area new
houses were the main cause for new WUI, while in the eastern study area forest cover increase was
more important. Our results highlight that regions with similar current WUI cover have evolved very
differently, and that the WUI has grown rapidly and is widespread in the Polish Carpathians.

File: Kaim2018_WUI_Carpathians_IJGI.pdf

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Where wildfires destroy buildings in the US relative to the wildland-urban interface and national fire outreach programs

Over the past 30 years, the cost of wildfire suppression and homes lost to wildfire in the U.S. have increased dramatically, driven in part by the expansion of the wildland-urban interface (WUI), where buildings and wildland vegetation meet. In response, the wildfire management community has devoted substantial effort to better understand where buildings and vegetation co-occur, and to establish outreach programs to reduce wildfire damage to homes. However, the extent to which the location of buildings affected by wildfire overlaps the WUI, and where and when outreach programs were established relative to wildfire, is unclear. We found that most threatened and destroyed buildings in the conterminous U.S. were within the WUI (59% and 69%, respectively), but this varied considerably among states. Fires with the greatest building loss were close to outreach programs (such as Firewise), but for 76% of destroyed buildings, the nearest outreach program was established post-wildfire. In these locations, as well as places new to the WUI or in areas where the fire regime is predicted to change, pre-emptive outreach could improve the likelihood of building survival and reduce the human and financial costs of structure loss.

File: Kramer2018_Fire_Buildings_IJWF.pdf

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Declining human population but increasing residential development around protected areas in Puerto Rico

Increasing residential development around protected areas is a major threat for protected areas worldwide, and
human population growth is often the most important cause. However, population is decreasing in many regions
as a result of socio-economic changes, and it is unclear how residential development around protected areas is
affected in these situations. We investigated whether decreasing human population alleviates pressures from
residential development around protected areas, using Puerto Rico—an island with declining population—as a
case study. We calculated population and housing changes from the 2000 to 2010 census around 124 protected
areas, using buffers of different sizes.We found that the number of houses around protected areas continued to
increase while population declined both around protected areas and island-wide. A total of 32,300 new houses
were constructed within only 1 km from protected areas, while population declined by 28,868 within the
same area. At the same time, 90% of protected areas showed increases in housing in the surrounding lands,
47% showed population declines, and 40% showed population increases, revealing strong spatial variations.
Our results highlight that residential development remains an important component of lands surrounding
protected areas in Puerto Rico, but the spatial variations in population and housing changes indicate that management
actions in response to housing effects may need to be individually targeted. More broadly, our findings
reinforce the awareness that residential development effects on protected areas are most likely widespread and
common in many socioeconomic and demographic settings.

File: ja_iitf_2017_Castro001.pdf

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Assessing wildfire exposure in the Wildland-Urban Interface area of the mountains of central Argentina

Wildfires are a major threat to people and property in Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) communities
worldwide, but while the patterns of the WUI in North America, Europe and Oceania have been studied
before, this is not the case in Latin America. Our goals were to a) map WUI areas in central Argentina, and
b) assess wildfire exposure for WUI communities in relation to historic fires, with special emphasis on
large fires and estimated burn probability based on an empirical model. We mapped the WUI in the
mountains of central Argentina (810,000 ha), after digitizing the location of 276,700 buildings and
deriving vegetation maps from satellite imagery. The areas where houses and wildland vegetation
intermingle were classified as Intermix WUI (housing density > 6.17 hu/km2 and wildland vegetation
cover > 50%), and the areas where wildland vegetation abuts settlements were classified as Interface
WUI (housing density > 6.17 hu/km2, wildland vegetation cover < 50%, but within 600 m of a vegetated patch larger than 5 km2). We generated burn probability maps based on historical fire data from 1999 to 2011; as well as from an empirical model of fire frequency. WUI areas occupied 15% of our study area and contained 144,000 buildings (52%). Most WUI area was Intermix WUI, but most WUI buildings were in the Interface WUI. Our findings suggest that central Argentina has a WUI fire problem. WUI areas included most of the buildings exposed to wildfires and most of the buildings located in areas of higher burn probability. Our findings can help focus fire management activities in areas of higher risk, and ultimately provide support for landscape management and planning aimed at reducing wildfire risk in WUI communities.

File: Arganaraz2017_WUI_Argentina_JEM.pdf

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Sprawling and diverse: the changing U.S. population and implications for protected areas in the 21st Century

Public lands are typically established in recognition of their unique ecological value, yet both ecological
and social values of public lands change over time, along with human distribution and land use. These
transformations are evident even in developed countries with long histories of public land management,
such as the United States. The 20th Century saw dramatic changes in the American population, in distribution
and in racial and ethnic diversity, leading to new challenges and new roles for public lands. Our
goal with this paper is to review changing demographics and implications for terrestrial protected areas
in the U.S. We overview the fundamentals of population change and data, review past trends in population
change and housing growth and their impacts on public lands, and then analyze the most recent
decade of demographic change (2000-2010) relative to public lands. Discussions of demographic change
and public lands commonly focus on the rural West, but we show that the South is also experiencing
substantial change in rural areas with public lands, including Hispanic population growth. We identify
those places, rural and urban, where demographic change (2000-2010), including diversification and
housing growth, coincide with public lands. Understanding the current trends and long-term demographic
context for recent changes in populations can help land managers and conservation scientists
mitigate the effects of residential development near public lands, serve a more diverse population, and
anticipate future population changes.

File: nrs_2018_mockrin_002.pdf

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Vegetation cover in relation to socioeconomic factors in a tropical city assessed from sub-meter resolution imagery

Fine-scale information about urban vegetation and social-ecological relationships
is crucial to inform both urban planning and ecological research, and high spatial resolution
imagery is a valuable tool for assessing urban areas. However, urban ecology and remote sensing
have largely focused on cities in temperate zones. Our goal was to characterize urban vegetation
cover with sub-meter (<1 m) resolution aerial imagery, and identify social-ecological relationships of urban vegetation patterns in a tropical city, the San Juan Metropolitan Area, Puerto Rico. Our specific objectives were to (1) map vegetation cover using sub-meter spatial resolution (0.3-m) imagery, (2) quantify the amount of residential and non-residential vegetation, and (3) investigate the relationship between patterns of urban vegetation vs. socioeconomic and environmental factors. We found that 61% of the San Juan Metropolitan Area was green and that our combination of high spatial resolution imagery and object-based classification was highly successful for extracting vegetation cover in a moist tropical city (97% accuracy). In addition, simple spatial pattern analysis allowed us to separate residential from non-residential vegetation with 76% accuracy, and patterns of residential and non-residential vegetation varied greatly across the city. Both socioeconomic (e.g., population density, building age, detached homes) and environmental variables (e.g., topography) were important in explaining variations in vegetation cover in our spatial regression models. However, important socioeconomic drivers found in cities in temperate zones, such as income and home value, were not important in San Juan. Climatic and cultural differences between tropical and temperate cities may result in different social-ecological relationships. Our study provides novel information for local land use planners, highlights the value of high spatial resolution remote sensing data to advance ecological research and urban planning in tropical cities, and emphasizes the need for more studies in tropical cities.

File: Martinuzzi2018_VegCover_EcoApps.pdf

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Places where wildfire potential and social vulnerability coincide in the coterminous United States

The hazards-of-place model posits that vulnerability to environmental hazards depends on both biophysica and social factors. Biophysical factors determine where wildfire potential is elevated, whereas social factors determin where and how people are affected by wildfire. We evaluated place vulnerability to wildfire hazards in the coterminou US. We developed a social vulnerability index using principal component analysis and evaluated it against existin measures of wildfire potential and wildland–urban interface designations. We created maps showing the coincidence o social vulnerability and wildfire potential to identify places according to their vulnerability to wildfire. We found tha places with high wildfire potential have, on average, lower social vulnerability than other places, but nearly 10% of al housing in places with high wildfire potential also exhibits high social vulnerability. We summarised our data by states t evaluate trends at a subnational level. Although some regions, such as the South-east, had more housing in places with hig wildfire vulnerability, other regions, such as the upper Midwest, exhibited higher rates of vulnerability than expected. Ou results can help to inform wildfire prevention, mitigation and recovery planning, as well as reduce wildfire hazard affecting vulnerable places and populations.

File: Wigtl_etal_2016_IntnlJWF.pdf

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Recovery and adaptation after wildfire on the Colorado Front Range (2010-2012)

Following the loss of homes to wildfire, when risk has been made apparent, homeowners must decide whethe to rebuild, and choose materials and vegetation, while local governments guide recovery and rebuilding. As wildfires ar smaller and more localised than other disasters, it is unclear if recovery after wildfire results in policy change and adaptation decreasing assets at risk, or if recovery encourages reinvestment in hazard-prone areas. We studied three wildfires on th Colorado Front Range from 2010 to 2012 that each destroyed over 150 homes, describing policy response and characterisin the built environment after wildfire. In each location, we found some adaptation, through better-mitigated homes an stronger building and vegetation mitigation standards, but also extensive reinvestment in hazard-prone environments, wit governmental support. Despite suggestions that disaster can lead to substantial policy change and elevate the role of land-us planning, we saw only modest reforms: local governments did not revise land-use regulations; a statewide task forc considered but did not require standards for building and vegetation mitigation; and only one jurisdiction strengthened it building and vegetation mitigation standards. Experiences in Colorado suggest that time after wildfire either does no provide extensive opportunities for adaptation in the built environment, or that these opportunities are easily missed.

File: Mockrin_etal_2016_IntlJWF.pdf

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Prioritizing land management efforts at a landscape scale: a case study using prescribed fire in Wisconsin

One challenge in the effort to conserve biodiversity is identifying where to prioritize resources for active land management. Cost–benefit analyses have been used successfully as a conservation tool to identify sites that provide the greatest conservation benefit per unit cost. Our goal was to apply cost–benefit analysis to the question of how to prioritize land management efforts, in our case the application of prescribed fire to natural landscapes in Wisconsin, USA. We quantified and mapped frequently burned communities and prioritized management units based on a suite of indices that captured ecological benefits, management effort, and the feasibility of successful long- term manage-ment actions. Data for these indices came from LANDFIRE, Wisconsin’s Wildlife Action Plan, and a nationwide wildland–urban interface assessment. We found that the majority of frequently burned vegetation types occurred in the southern portion of the state. How-ever, the highest priority areas for applying prescribed fire occurred in the central, north-west, and northeast portion of the state where frequently burned vegetation patches were larger and where identified areas of high biological importance area occurred. Although our focus was on the use of prescribed fire in Wisconsin, our methods can be adapted to prioritize other land management activities. Such prioritization is necessary to achieve the greatest possible benefits from limited funding for land management actions, and our results show that it is feasible at scales that are relevant for land management decisions.

File: Hmielowski_etal_2016_EcologicalApplications.pdf

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