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Mapping regional patterns of large forest fires in Wildland-Urban Interface areas in Europe

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journal contribution
posted on 2016-05-13, 10:08 authored by Sirio Modugno, Heiko Balzter, Beth Cole, Pasquale Borrelli
Over recent decades, Land Use and Cover Change (LUCC) trends in many regions of Europe have reconfigured the landscape structures around many urban areas. In these areas, the proximity to landscape elements with high forest fuels has increased the fire risk to people and property. These Wildland-Urban Interface areas (WUI) can be defined as landscapes where anthropogenic urban land use and forest fuel mass come into contact. Mapping their extent is needed to prioritize fire risk control and inform local forest fire risk management strategies. This study proposes a method to map the extent and spatial patterns of the European WUI areas at continental scale. Using the European map of WUI areas, the hypothesis is tested that the distance from the nearest WUI area is related to the forest fire probability. Statistical relationships between the distance from the nearest WUI area, and large forest fire incidents from satellite remote sensing were subsequently modelled by logistic regression analysis. The first European scale map of the WUI extent and locations is presented. Country-specific positive and negative relationships of large fires and the proximity to the nearest WUI area are found. A regional-scale analysis shows a strong influence of the WUI zones on large fires in parts of the Mediterranean regions. Results indicate that the probability of large burned surfaces increases with diminishing WUI distance in touristic regions like Sardinia, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, or in regions with a strong peri-urban component as Catalunya, Comunidad de Madrid, Comunidad Valenciana. For the above regions, probability curves of large burned surfaces show statistical relationships (ROC value > 0.5) inside a 5000 m buffer of the nearest WUI. Wise land management can provide a valuable ecosystem service of fire risk reduction that is currently not explicitly included in ecosystem service valuations. The results re-emphasise the importance of including this ecosystem service in landscape valuations to account for the significant landscape function of reducing the risk of catastrophic large fires.

Funding

The European Environment Agency provided the CORINE land cover data. CORINE 2012 production was supported by Defra and the European Environment Agency under Grant Agreement 3541/B2012/R0-GIO/EEA.55055 with funding by the European Union. This study was partially funded by the Natural Environment Research Council's support for the National Centre for Earth Observation. Heiko Balzter was supported by the Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award, 2011/R3.

History

Citation

Journal of Environmental Management, 2016, 172, pp. 112-126

Author affiliation

/Organisation/COLLEGE OF SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING/Department of Geography/GIS and Remote Sensing

Version

  • VoR (Version of Record)

Published in

Journal of Environmental Management

Publisher

Elsevier on behalf of Academic Press

issn

0301-4797

eissn

1095-8630

Acceptance date

2016-02-08

Available date

2016-05-13

Publisher version

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301479716300548

Language

en

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