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Applying information network analysis to fire-prone landscapes: implications for community resilience

Derric B Jacobs, Oregon State University
Lori A Cramer, Oregon State University


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Resilient communities promote trust, have well-developed networks, and can adapt to change. For rural communities in fire-prone landscapes, current resilience strategies may prove insufficient in light of increasing wildfire risks due to climate change. It is argued that, given the complexity of climate change, adaptations are best addressed at local levels where specific social, cultural, political, and economic conditions are matched with local risks and opportunities. Despite the importance of social networks as key attributes of community resilience, research using social network analysis on coupled human and natural systems is scarce. Furthermore, the extent to which local communities in fire-prone areas understand climate change risks, accept the likelihood of potential changes, and have the capacity to develop collaborative mitigation strategies is underexamined, yet these factors are imperative to community resiliency. We apply a social network framework to examine information networks that affect perceptions of wildfire and climate change in Central Oregon. Data were collected using a mailed questionnaire. Analysis focused on the residents’ information networks that are used to gain awareness of governmental activities and measures of community social capital. A two-mode network analysis was used to uncover information exchanges. Results suggest that the general public develops perceptions about climate change based on complex social and cultural systems rather than as patrons of scientific inquiry and understanding. It appears that perceptions about climate change itself may not be the limiting factor in these communities’ adaptive capacity, but rather how they perceive local risks. We provide a novel methodological approach in understanding rural community adaptation and resilience in fire-prone landscapes and offer a framework for future studies.

Key words

climate change; community-based adaptation; information networks; social capital; wildfire

Copyright © 2017 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