Geospatial approach for defining the Wildland-Urban Interface in the Alpine environment


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Geospatial approach for defining the Wildland-Urban Interface in the Alpine environment
Computers, Environment and Urban Systems
Conedera M., Tonini M., Oleggini L., Vega Orozco C., Leuenberger M., Pezzatti Gianni B.
0198-9715 (Print)
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Problems related to fire hazard and fire management have become in recent decades one of the most relevant issues in the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI), that is the area where human infrastructures meet or intermingle with natural vegetation. In this paper we develop a robust geospatial method for defining and mapping the WUI in the Alpine environment, where most interactions between infrastructures and wildland vegetation concern the fire ignition through human activities, whereas no significant threats exist for infrastructures due to contact with burning vegetation. We used the three Alpine Swiss cantons of Ticino, Valais and Grisons as the study area. The features representing anthropogenic infrastructures (urban or infrastructural components of the WUI) as well as forest cover related features (wildland component of the WUI) were selected from the Swiss Topographic Landscape Model (TLM3D). Georeferenced forest fire occurrences derived from the WSL Swissfire database were used to define suitable WUI interface distances. The Random Forest algorithm was applied to estimate the importance of predictor variables to fire ignition occurrence. This revealed that buildings and drivable roads are the most relevant anthropogenic components with respect to fire ignition. We consequently defined the combination of drivable roads and easily accessible (i.e. 100 m from the next drivable road) buildings as the WUI-relevant infrastructural component. For the definition of the interface (buffer) distance between WUI infrastructural and wildland components, we computed the empirical cumulative distribution functions (ECDF) of the percentage of ignition points (observed and simulated) arising at increasing distances from the selected infrastructures. The ECDF facilitates the calculation of both the distance at which a given percentage of ignition points occurred and, in turn, the amount of forest area covered at a given distance. Finally, we developed a GIS ModelBuilder routine to map the WUI for the selected buffer distance. The approach was found to be reproducible, robust (based on statistical analyses for evaluating parameters) and flexible (buffer distances depending on the targeted final area covered) so that fire managers may use it to detect WUI according to their specific priorities.
Fire management, WUI, GIS-model, Variable importance, Alpine environment
Create date
19/03/2015 14:30
Last modification date
20/08/2019 16:08
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