Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Understanding social complexity within the wildland urban interface: A new species of human habitation? Environmental Management

Informally Refereed
Authors: Travis B. Paveglio, Pamela J. Jakes, Matthew S. Carroll, Daniel R. Williams
Year: 2009
Type: Scientific Journal
Station: Rocky Mountain Research Station
Source: Environmental Management. 43: 1085-95.


The lack of knowledge regarding social diversity in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) or an in-depth understanding of the ways people living there interact to address common problems is concerning, perhaps even dangerous, given that community action is necessary for successful wildland fire preparedness and natural resource management activities. In this article, we lay out the knowledge and preliminary case study evidence needed to begin systematically documenting the differing levels and types of adaptive capacity WUI communities have for addressing collective problems such as wildland fire hazard. In order to achieve this end, we draw from two theoretical perspectives encompassing humans' interactions with their environment, including (1) Kenneth Wilkinson's interactional approach to community, (2) and certain elements of place literature. We also present case study research on wildfire protection planning in two drastically different California communities to illustrate how social diversity influences adaptive capacity to deal with hazards such as wildland fire. These perspectives promote an image of the WUI not as a monolithic entity but a complex mosaic of communities with different needs and existing capacities for wildland fire and natural resource management.


wildland urban interface, community, wildland fire, adaptive capacity, social diversity, hazards


Paveglio, Travis B.; Jakes, Pamela J.; Carroll, Matthew S.; Williams, Daniel R. 2009. Understanding social complexity within the wildland urban interface: A new species of human habitation Environmental Management. 43: 1085-95.