Fire on the Fringe

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Award Year: 
Principal Investigator: 
Kenneth Wallen, Texas A&M University
Ellen Esch, University of California - San Diego

The social and ecological drivers of human–fire relationships have shifted in the past century. Our Graduate Pursuit team will utilize existing datasets to understand these shifting dynamics of the human–fire relationship within the San Diego–Cleveland National Forest wildland–urban interface (SDCNF WUI). We propose to address two overarching research questions:

  1. What are the likely trajectories of urban development, vegetation community composition, and wildfire dynamics in the San Diego–Cleveland National Forest wildland–urban interface SDCNF WUI in relation to homeowner firewise behavior and displacement of native vegetation?
  2. Based on our understanding of these trajectories and relationships, how can fire management and urban planning mitigate risk to humans, property, and native vegetation?

Our study will utilize stochastic cellular automata to model urbanization, environmental change, and sociological behavior to gain better understanding of how actual and perceived fire risk, spatial urbanization patterns, and human-induced replacement of native chaparral with fire-prone exotic grasses interact and feed back into the socioecological dynamics of the SDCNF WUI. Results of our synthesis will be pertinent and actionable to local homeowners, fire management officials, land management agencies, and urban planners interested in creating a more fire-resilient future for cities within Southern California and other fire-prone areas throughout the U.S. 

Patrick Bitterman, University of Iowa
Michael Levy, University of California, Davis
Katie Lyon, Colorado State University
Michael Saha, University of Virginia
Alexandra Syphard, San Diego State University
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