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Adaptation in fire-prone landscapes: interactions of policies, management, wildfire, and social networks in Oregon, USA

Thomas A. Spies, USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, Corvallis, OR
Robert M. Scheller, Dept. Forestry and Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University
John P. Bolte, Oregon State University, College of Agricultural Sciences, Biological and Ecological Engineering


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This editorial introduces the special feature on the social-ecological system of a fire-prone forest landscape in Oregon, USA. Research into social-ecological systems of fire-frequent landscapes is in its infancy and this special feature highlights one of the first attempts to understand a fire-dependent forest landscape from this perspective. An agent-based landscape modeling framework, Envision, was the primary tool for the research. The papers in this special feature examine three major questions: (1) What is the landscape structure of forest conditions, fire regimes, ownerships, and attitudes toward fire and forest management?; (2) How are social networks of the study region structured and how might they influence attitudes and actions of landowners?; (3) How do land management policies, institutions, and decisions interact to influence future fire occurrence, biodiversity, and ecosystem services? The findings of the empirical research and simulation modeling reveal how the high ecological and social (e.g., landownership and management goals) diversity of the region contributes to very different fire potentials, attitudes, and management approaches across space. The social network analysis reveals that the social network is divided into fire protection and fire restoration subnetworks that only a few organizations were able to bridge. The simulation modeling shows how difficult it can be to affect fire behavior across large areas, and what the trade-offs of different management actions might be in terms of ecosystem services and fire risk. The special feature also includes papers that examine how social science research is influenced by the use of an agent-based model, and what has been learned about the process of conducting social-ecological research and engaging with stakeholders with the goal of improving understanding of and adaptation to fire-frequent landscapes.

Key words

forests; social-ecological systems; wildfire risk; wildland urban interface

Copyright © 2018 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087