WWETAC Projects

Project Title: Literature synthesis of potential components of an adaptive capacity self-assessment tool for Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) communities

Principal Investigator: Matthew Carroll, Washington State University, Pullman, WA


Collaborator: Paige Fischer, Western Wildland Environmental Threat Assessment Center, Prineville, OR

Key Issues/Problems Addressed:

Human communities within Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) areas face specific challenges including a loss of economic base and threats to the wildland areas around them (i.e. drought, fire, insect, disease). An evaluation of which assessment tools best quantify WUI community needs is essential for helping facilitate an increase in the adaptive capacity of affected human communities in an era of global environmental change and uncertainty.

Setting and Approach:

Multiple adaptation capacity assessment tool literature was reviewed and synthesized. A search process used six databases which yielded 58 articles. An evaluation determined that 34 of the 58 articles performed and described a specific assessment strategy.  A coding scheme was devised which provided a system for comparing and contrasting the various assessment approaches represented.

Key Findings:

  • A large portion of assessments were focused on the concept of vulnerability (41%) and were most often associated with climate change studies. 
  • A crucial distinction exists between profile approaches and what Beckley et al (2002) called “process” indicators—characteristics of local social systems that explain and explore causal factors.  Both process and profile indicators are likely necessary for adequate assessments of 1) local populations’ existent abilities to adapt in the face of risk and, 2) how professionals, experts and/or local residents can increase local populations’ adaptive capacities for the future.
  •  Additional data sets and systematic data collection strategies that better reflect “process” indicators for adaptive capacity to wildfire and other hazards are needed.


The increasing prevalence of mixed-method approaches for the measurement of human populations’ adaptive capacity indicates that no single method exists for successfully gauging the adaptation abilities of a population.  A mixed-method assessment strategy (utilizing profile and process indicators) that is specifically tailored to a distinct community is likely essential for assessing adaptation needs.

WWETAC Project ID: FY10PF77

fire and wui