A comparative analysis of two major approaches for mapping the wildland-urban interface: A case study in California

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The Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) is where human settlements border or intermingle with undeveloped land, often with multiple detrimental consequences. Therefore, mapping the WUI is required in order to identify areas-at-risk. There are two main WUI mapping methods, the point-based approach and the zonal approach. Both differ in data requirements and may produce considerably different maps, yet they were never compared before. My objective was to systematically compare the point-based and the zonal-based WUI maps of California, and to test the efficacy of a new database of building locations in the context of WUI mapping. I assessed the spatial accuracy of the building database, and then compared the spatial patterns of WUI maps by estimating the effect of multiple ancillary variables on the amount of agreement between maps. I found that the building database is highly accurate and is suitable for WUI mapping. The point-based approach estimated a consistently larger WUI area across California compared to the zonal ap-proach. The spatial correspondence between maps was low-to-moderate, and was significantly affected by building numbers and by their spatial arrangement. The discrepancy between WUI maps suggests that they are not directly comparable within and across landscapes, and that each WUI map should serve a distinct practical purpose.

Original languageEnglish
Article number679
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Buildings
  • Mapping
  • Wildfire
  • Wildland Urban Interface

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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