PORTLAND, Ore. June
11, 2013. A recent study in the Journal of Forestry now offers
managers a tool to help them identify regions exposed to multiple
forest threats. The tool uses a novel 15-mile radius neighborhood
analysis to highlight locations where threats are more concentrated
relative to other areas, and identifies where multiple threats
may intersect. It is a technique that may have never been used
before to describe forest threats, according to the researchers.
“Policymakers and managers often rely on maps showing where
forest threats are most prevalent; they then assess these threats
to the forest resources most valued by the public,” explains
Jeff Kline, the study’s lead author and a research forester
at the Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest (PNW) Research
Station. “Management priorities are then made based on this
information. We have devised a way to combine and display forest
threat data at its appropriate spatial scale and in a way that
transcends political boundaries, using readily available GIS [geographic
information system] analytical tools.”
“To our knowledge, this is the first time that data describing
different threats have been displayed in this manner,” adds
co-lead and research ecologist, Becky Kerns, “Our approach
recognizes that a single point mapped as potentially highly vulnerable
a threat may not be all that important from a regional or national
planning perspective. What is important is the concentration of
threats within a defined and appropriate spatial scale of interest.”
study, which began in 2008, examines spatial data characterizing
wildfire, insects and disease, and urban and exurban development
in the northwestern United States. It covered 488,000 square miles
in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming, using a novel
15-mile radius neighborhood analysis to highlight locations where
threat of a given disturbance may be more concentrated relative
to other areas.
The maps and overlays can help managers locate
regions where potential threat combinations are most prevalent.
Such assessments can help
managers allocate resources toward mitigation efforts and better
use shrinking budgets. Federal wildfire suppression expenditures
exceeded $1 billion in 2000. They have exceeded that amount nearly
every year since, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
Three key findings characterize the study:
(Note: Maps created by the researchers highlight the intersection
of locations where a given disturbance exists at a higher concentration
relative to other areas in the five-state study region.)
Although still a very high concern, wildfire potential combined
with urban and exurban development can occur on a fairly small
geographic area in the northwestern United States, despite widespread
concern about their coexistence.
The combination of wildfire with insects and disease affect extensive
portions of the forested landscape in the northwestern United States.
The triple threat of wildfire, insects and disease, and urban/exurban
development, is not common in the northwestern United States.
The study, Mapping Multiple Forest Threats in the Northwestern
United States, was coauthored by PNW Research Station scientists
Kline and Kerns; Michelle Day, a Faculty Research Assistant, Oregon
State University (OSU); and Roger Hammer, an Associate Professor
of Public Policy, at OSU. The USDA Forest Service’s Western
Wildland Environmental Threat Assessment Center provided funding
for the study.
Read it online at http://www.safnet.org/publications/jof/
The Pacific Northwest Research Station—headquartered in Portland,
Oregon—generates and communicates scientific knowledge
that helps people make informed choices about natural resources
the environment. The station has 11 laboratories and centers
located in Alaska, Washington, and Oregon and about 390 employees.
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