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John Bolte
Department of
  Biological &
  Ecological Engineering
Oregon State University

116 Gilmore Hall
Corvallis, OR 97331
Phone: (541) 737-2041
Email: boltej at engr.orst.edu


Forests, People and Fire - Central Oregon Alternative Futures

NEW: Draft Model Input field for FPF are available here. Note: If you have not installed Envision, you will have to do that as well - here's the link...

This project focuses on improving our understanding of how biophysical systems, management actions, and socio-economic influences interact to affect sustainability in fire-prone landscapes under climate change. This work integrates social and ecological sciences to study a fire-prone landscape in central Oregon that includes private, state, federal, and tribal lands.  Our method will combine an established spatially explicit, policy-driven, multiagent model of land management decision-making, models of vegetative succession and fire ignition/spread that can represent climate change effects, and a suite of landscape evaluators of socio-economic and ecological system performance. The project will integrate existing studies of ecosystems with new and ongoing studies characterizing human preferences and values in these landscapes to parameterize the multiagent model with defensible representations of human decision-making. We will extend the application of agent-based models to study how social networks influence landscape dynamics and adaptation, and explore landscape trajectories under alternative policy and climate change scenarios using Monte Carlo techniques to understand variant/invariant aspects of landscape change, land management policy strategies, human preferences, and ecosystem feedbacks. These analyses will help identify management strategies that increase adaptive capacity of these landscapes to respond to uncertain futures. We anticipate this project will: 1) reveal complex system behaviors associated with fire-prone landscapes, 2) improve effectiveness of forest management policies in multiownership fire-prone landscapes,  3) improve understanding of the role of social networks (e.g. fire protection districts and environmental organizations) and economic forces in influencing how landowners and managers make decisions under risk and uncertainty, and 4) improve understanding of how external forces of climate change and carbon markets could affect policy outcomes, biodiversity, and ecosystem services.  Diagram

Wildland fire policies in the U.S. are fragmented and broken, largely a result of a lack of information and approaches integrating human and ecological dimensions of landscape change into decision-making processes around land and wildfire management. Our current approaches to wildfire have been to separate the fire-prone landscape into a “wildland-urban interface” under the influence of fire management agencies, and a wild landscape under the influence of land managers. The two fire worlds are often seen as socially, economically, and institutionally separate, yet, they are clearly part of a single interconnected socio-ecological landscape. Lack of understanding of these connections has lead to policies that are suboptimal or even maladaptive. For example, fire suppression has increased the risk of high-severity fire and draws limited resources away from necessary ecological restoration work in wilder parts of the landscape. The problem of adaptation to fire-prone landscapes is even more challenging when climate change and carbon markets are considered. Developing more adaptive policies and actions is limited by lack of understanding of how social systems—networks and institutions—influence adaptive behavior in private and public landowners.  This study will develop and apply methods to characterize these social systems and their interactions with landscape change processes, and use this information to explore and test alternative landscape management strategies that integrate both ecological and human dimensions of landscape change to identify those strategies that provide improved ecological function while minimizing social and economic costs associated with fire.

The proposed research will address three major questions: 

  1. How do land management policies, social networks and institutions, and actor decisions interact to influence landscape dynamics and produce intended and unintended consequences for biodiversity and ecosystem services (e.g. carbon)?
  2. How sensitive are landscape outcomes to feedbacks from social networks, socioeconomic institutions, landscape patterns, and alternative policies?
  3. How might external drivers such as climate change and market forces alter landscape dynamics and the production of ecosystem goods and services?

A map of the study area is provided below. map

Model LinkagesModel Linkages: Model Linkages are shown in Figure 3. This effort is linking the VDDT Vegetation Dynamics Simulator, the FLAMMAP fire model for simulating fire behavior and ignitions, and carbon and habitat models. We are developing new models of social network influences on actor decision-making.

This project is being conducted by Oregon State University and the U.S. Forest Service, with funding provided by the National Science Foundation.

OSU NSFForest Service