Assessing wildfire exposure in the Wildland-Urban Interface area of the mountains of central Argentina

J. P. Argañaraz, V. C. Radeloff, A. Bar-Massada, G. I. Gavier-Pizarro, C. M. Scavuzzo, L. M. Bellis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Wildfires are a major threat to people and property in Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) communities worldwide, but while the patterns of the WUI in North America, Europe and Oceania have been studied before, this is not the case in Latin America. Our goals were to a) map WUI areas in central Argentina, and b) assess wildfire exposure for WUI communities in relation to historic fires, with special emphasis on large fires and estimated burn probability based on an empirical model. We mapped the WUI in the mountains of central Argentina (810,000 ha), after digitizing the location of 276,700 buildings and deriving vegetation maps from satellite imagery. The areas where houses and wildland vegetation intermingle were classified as Intermix WUI (housing density > 6.17 hu/km2 and wildland vegetation cover > 50%), and the areas where wildland vegetation abuts settlements were classified as Interface WUI (housing density > 6.17 hu/km2, wildland vegetation cover < 50%, but within 600 m of a vegetated patch larger than 5 km2). We generated burn probability maps based on historical fire data from 1999 to 2011; as well as from an empirical model of fire frequency. WUI areas occupied 15% of our study area and contained 144,000 buildings (52%). Most WUI area was Intermix WUI, but most WUI buildings were in the Interface WUI. Our findings suggest that central Argentina has a WUI fire problem. WUI areas included most of the buildings exposed to wildfires and most of the buildings located in areas of higher burn probability. Our findings can help focus fire management activities in areas of higher risk, and ultimately provide support for landscape management and planning aimed at reducing wildfire risk in WUI communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)499-510
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Volume196
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Ltd

Keywords

  • Burn probability
  • Latin America
  • Point-based approach
  • WUI mapping
  • Wildfire exposure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Environmental Engineering

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