Social Science/Natural Science Perspectives on Wildfire and Climate Change

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Feb 09, 2016
Andrew Ayres, Alexander Degolia, Matthew Fienup, Yunyeol Kim, Jade Sainz, Laura Urbisci, Daniel Viana, Graham Wesolowski, Andrew J. Plantinga, and Christina Tague


In western North America, wildfire is a critical component of many ecosystems and a natural hazard that can result in catastrophic losses of human lives and property. Billions of dollars are spent suppressing wildfires each year. In the past decades, academic research has made substantial contributions to the understanding of fire and its interaction with climate and land management. Most reviews of the academic literature, however, are centered in either natural or social science. We offer an integrated cross-disciplinary guide to state-of-the art fire science and use this review to identify research gaps. We focus on the modern era and understanding fire in the context of a changing climate in western North America. We find that studies combining social and natural science perspectives remain limited and that interactions among coupled system components are poorly understood. For example, while natural science studies have identified how fuel treatments alter fire regimes, few social science studies examine how decisions are made about fuel treatments and how these decisions respond to changes in fire regimes. A key challenge is to better quantify the effects of actual fire management policies in a way that accounts for the complexity of coupled natural and natural–human system interactions.

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DOI for citing: 
DOI: 10.1111/gec3.12259
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