Wildfire is an ever present, natural process shaping landscapes. Having the ability to accurately measure and predict wildfire occurrence and impacts to ecosystem goods and services, both retrospectively and prospectively, is critical for adaptive management of landscapes. Landscape vulnerability is a concept widely utilized in the ecosystem management literature that has not been explicitly defined, particularly with regard to wildfire. Vulnerability more broadly is defined by three primary components: exposure to the stressor, sensitivity to a range of stressor variability, and resilience following exposure. In this synthesis, we define vulnerability in the context of wildfire. We first identify the components of a guiding framework for a vulnerability assessment with respect to wildfire. We then address retrospective assessments of wildfire vulnerability and the data that have been developed and utilized to complete these assessments. Finally, we review the modeling efforts that allow for predictive and probabilistic assessment of future vulnerability. Throughout the synthesis, we highlight gaps in the research, data availability, and models used to complete vulnerability assessments.
We used spatial optimization to analyze alternative restoration scenarios and quantify tradeoffs for a large, multifaceted restoration program to restore resiliency to forest landscapes in the western US. We specifically examined tradeoffs between provisional ecosystem services, fire protection, and the amelioration of key ecological stressors. The results revealed that attainment of multiple restoration objectives was constrained due to the joint spatial patterns of ecological conditions and socioeconomic values.We also found that current restoration projects are substantially suboptimal, perhaps the result of compromises in the collaborative planning process used by federal planners, or operational constraints on forest management activities. The juxtaposition of ecological settings with human values generated sharp tradeoffs, especially with respect to community wildfire protection versus generating revenue to support restoration and fire protection activities. The analysis and methods can be leveraged by ongoing restoration programs in many ways including: 1) integrated prioritization of restoration activities at multiple scales on public and adjoining private lands, 2) identification and mapping of conflicts between ecological restoration and socioeconomic objectives, 3) measuring the efficiency of ongoing restoration projects compared to the optimal production possibility frontier, 4) consideration of fire transmission among public and private land parcels as a prioritization metric, and 5) finding socially optimal regions along the production frontier as part of collaborative restoration planning.
The goldspotted oak borer, Agrilus auroguttatus Schaeffer (Coleoptera: Buprestidae), is an invasive species that has colonized oak woodlands in southern California. To better define its seasonal flight activity, assist with forest and integrated pest management activities, and define the current distribution in California, an effective monitoring technique for A. auroguttatus is necessary. We assessed the efficacy of two colors of flight-intercept prism traps, the placement of these traps at three heights, and several commercially available lures [Manuka oil, Phoebe oil, and a green leaf volatile, (3Z)-hexenol] for monitoring the flight of adult A. auroguttatus. Landing rates and the densities of D-shaped emergence holes of A. auroguttatus adults were assessed on the lower stems of coast live oak, Quercus agrifolia Née, of varying size and crown health classes. Purple flight-intercept prism traps placed at heights of 3 m and 4.5 m caught significantly more female A. auroguttatus than green prism traps. In one experiment, males also responded at a significantly higher level to purple than to green prism traps placed at 3 m height. The addition of commercially available lures significantly enhanced male, but not female, A. auroguttatus trap catch when compared with unbaited control traps. There were no differences among male flight responses to the three lures. A. auroguttatus landing rates and emergence hole densities were significantly greater on the largest-diameter trees (>76.2 cm diameter at breast height) and on trees with severe crown thinning or complete crown collapse. The annual increment in emergence hole densities was also significantly greater on trees with severe crown thinning or complete crown collapse. In three trapping studies over multiple years in southern California, the adult flight period began as early as mid-May, peaked in mid-June to early July, and ended in early- to mid-September. To demonstrate the efficacy of the detection method for A. auroguttatus (unbaited purple traps at 3 m height), a delimitation survey conducted from 2009 to 2012 confirmed that the species was only present in San Diego Co., but that the distribution was expanding northward.
Growing awareness of air pollution effects on forests has, from the early 1980s on, led to intensive forest damage research and monitoring. This has fostered air pollution control, especially in Europe and North America, and to a smaller extent also in other parts of the world. At several forest sites in these regions, there are first indications of a recovery of forest soil and tree conditions that may be attributed to improved air quality. This caused a decrease in the attention paid by politicians and the public to air pollution effects on forests. But air pollution continues to affect the structure and functioning of forest ecosystems not only in Europe and North America but even more so in parts of Russia, Asia, Latin America, and Africa. At the political level, however, attention to climate change is focussed on questions of CO2 emission and carbon sequestration. But ecological interactions between air pollution including CO2 and O3 concentrations, extreme temperatures, drought, insects, pathogens, and fire, as well as the impact of ecosystem management practices, are still poorly understood. Future research should focus on the interacting impacts on forest trees and ecosystems. The integrative effects of air pollution and climatic change, in particular elevated O3, altered nutrient, temperature, water availability, and elevated CO2, will be key issues for impact research. An important improvement in our understanding might be obtained by the combination of long-term multidisciplinary experiments with ecosystem-level monitoring, and the integration of the results with ecosystem modelling within a multiple-constraint framework.
Forests are facing significant pressures from climate change and air pollution. Air pollution is the main driver of the ongoing climate change. Current knowledge suggests that climate change may become more harmful to pollution-affected forests, although the magnitude of these feedbacks is still to be determined. At present, the air pollutants of most concern to forests are tropospheric ozone and nitrogen deposition. Both ozone and nitrogen affect biodiversity and increase forest susceptibility to drought, pest attacks, windstorms and fire. The impacts on forest ecosystems, however, have traditionally treated air pollution and climate change separately, although they are, in fact, cause and effect. The cause and effect relationship between pollutant inputs and ecological factors or ecosystem attributes requires substantial multidisciplinary research effort. The integrative effects of air pollution and climatic changes, in particular those caused by elevated ozone, altered nutrients, emperature, water availability, and elevated CO2, will be key issues for future research. An important improvement in our understanding will be obtained by the combination of long-term multidisciplinary experiments with ecosystem-level monitoring, and integration of effects utilizing ecosystem modeling within a multiple-constraint framework. This paper reviews the current knowledge on the integrated climate change and air pollution impacts on global forests, and suggests mitigation strategies, adaptive forest management options, and how to close knowledge gaps for appropriate decisions in environmental policy.
Gas exchange responses to static and variable light were tested in three species: snap bean (Phaseolus vulgaris, two cultivars), California black oak (Quercus kelloggii), and blue oak (Q. douglasii). The effects of 1-month (snap beans) and 2-month (oaks) O3 (ozone) exposure (70 ppb over 8 h per day in open-top chambers) were investigated. A delay in stomatal responses (i.e., ‘sluggish’ responses) to variable light was found to be both an effect of O3 exposure and a reason for increased O3 sensitivity in snap bean cultivars, as it implied higher O3 uptake during times of disequilibrium. Sluggishness increased the time to open (thus limiting CO2 uptake) and close stomata (thus increasing transpirational water loss) after abrupt changes in light level. Similar responses were shown by snap beans and oaks, suggesting that O3-induced stomatal sluggishness is a common trait among different plant physiognomic classes.
The need for improved methods for managing wildfire risk is becoming apparent as uncharacteristically large wildfires in the western US and elsewhere exceed government capacities for their control and suppression. We propose a coupled biophysical-social framework to managing wildfire risk that relies on wildfire simulation to identify spatial patterns of wildfire risk and transmission within “firesheds” surrounding communities, and social science to understand wildfire risk perceptions and the degree of collaboration and mitigation behavior among landowners, land management agencies and local officials. Such an approach potentially would provide an improved method for defining the spatial extent of wildfire risk to communities compared to current planning processes, and creates an explicit role for social science to improve understanding of community-wide risk perceptions and predict landowners’ capacities and willingness to mitigate risk by treating hazardous fuels and conducting Firewise activities. Moreover, this biophysical-social approach would enable identifying potential comparative advantages in the location of risk mitigation effort, whether on public or private lands, according to both the degree to which specific locations contribute to the transmission of wildfire risk and how likely they are to contribute to the mitigation of risk.
Wildfires pose complex challenges to policymakers and fire agencies. Fuel break networks and area-wide fuel treatments are risk-management options to reduce losses from large fires. Two fuel management scenarios covering 3% of the fire-prone Algarve region of Portugal and differing in the intensity of treatment in 120-m wide fuel breaks were examined and compared with the no-treatment option. We used the minimum travel time algorithm to simulate the growth of 150 000 fires under the weather conditions historically associated with large fires. Fuel break passive effects on burn probability, area burned, fire size distribution and fire transmission among 20 municipalities were analysed. Treatments decreased large-fire incidence and reduced overall burnt area up to 17% and burn probability between 4% and 31%, depending on fire size class and treatment option. Risk transmission among municipalities varied with community. Although fire distribution shifted and large events were less frequent, mean treatment leverage was very low (1 : 26), revealing a very high cost–benefit ratio and the need for engaging forest owners to act in complementary area-wide fuel treatments. The study assessed the effectiveness of a mitigating solution in a complex socioecological system, contributing to a better-informed wildland fire risk governance process among stakeholders.
Wildfire risk in temperate forests has become a nearly intractable problem that can be characterized as a socioecological “pathology”: that is, a set of complex and problematic interactions among social and ecological systems across multiple spatial and temporal scales. Assessments of wildfire risk could benefit from recognizing and accounting for these interactions in terms of socioecological systems, also known as coupled natural and human systems (CNHS). We characterize the primary social and ecological dimensions of the wildfire risk pathology, paying particular attention to the governance system around wildfire risk, and suggest strategies to mitigate the pathology through innovative planning approaches, analytical tools, and policies. We caution that even with a clear understanding of the problem and possible solutions, the system by which human actors govern fire-prone forests may evolve incrementally in imperfect ways and can be expected to resist change even as we learn better ways to manage CNHS.