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Examining fire-prone forest landscapes as coupled human and natural systems

Thomas A Spies, USDA Forest Service
Eric M. White, Oregon State University
Jeffrey D Kline, USDA Forest Service
A. Paige Fischer, USDA Forest Service
Alan Ager, USDA Forest Service
John Bailey, Oregon State University
John Bolte, Oregon State University
Jennifer Koch, North Carolina State University
Emily Platt, Oregon State University
Christine S Olsen, Oregon State University
Derric Jacobs, Oregon State University
Bruce Shindler, Oregon State University
Michelle M Steen-Adams, University of New England
Roger Hammer, Oregon State University


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Fire-prone landscapes are not well studied as coupled human and natural systems (CHANS) and present many challenges for understanding and promoting adaptive behaviors and institutions. Here, we explore how heterogeneity, feedbacks, and external drivers in this type of natural hazard system can lead to complexity and can limit the development of more adaptive approaches to policy and management. Institutions and social networks can counter these limitations and promote adaptation. We also develop a conceptual model that includes a robust characterization of social subsystems for a fire-prone landscape in Oregon and describe how we are building an agent-based model to promote understanding of this social-ecological system. Our agent-based model, which incorporates existing ecological models of vegetation and fire and is based on empirical studies of landowner decision-making, will be used to explore alternative management and fire scenarios with land managers and various public entities. We expect that the development of CHANS frameworks and the application of a simulation model in a collaborative setting will facilitate the development of more effective policies and practices for fire-prone landscapes.

Key words

agent-based model; CHANS; coupled human and natural systems; fire policy; fire-prone landscapes

Copyright © 2014 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