Geo-information based model for assessing and monitoring forest fire risk in the state of Missouri, United States of America
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Despite the fact that a lot of resources has been invested in fire protection and suppression, the number of fires recurring in Missouri in recent decades has continued to markedly increase. Much of forest research has focused on the biological and physical aspects of fire with comparatively less attention given to the importance of socio-economic variables and risk assessment. There is therefore the need to develop a framework for the assessment and monitoring of forest fire risk which is presently lacking in the state of Missouri. This is where this study derives its relevance. Missouri is currently ranked among the top seven states ravaged by wildfires in the United States. The specific objectives are to apply a geoinformation based model for the assessment of wildfire risk in Missouri; assess social vulnerability to wildfire, analyze the relationship between climate variability and wildfires; and examine wildfire policy in the United States, and the implications for wildfire risk reduction in Missouri. Forest risk and vulnerability assessment of Missouri was undertaken using some measurable environmental parameters influencing forest fire risk and vulnerability. Using the four ecological zones in Missouri and geospatial model as the basis of analysis, three forest risk zones were identified. These are high forest fire risk zones, moderate forest fire risk zone and low forest fire risk zone. Also, social vulnerability to wildfire risk in Missouri was assessed with the American Community Survey data on social and demographic variables for the state of Missouri and social vulnerability index (S0VI). The study divided Missouri into five geopolitical zones from which ten counties were randomly selected for this study. The selected counties formed the basis on which fourteen social and demographic indicators were identified and assessed using Bogardi, Birkmann and Cadona conceptual framework. The result of the analysis shows that S0VI estimated for the five geopolitical zones of Missouri is moderate with a rating scale of 1.42 – 1.71. Education, income and marital status have a rating scale of 2.0 - 3.0 attributed for the high value of Social Vulnerability to wildfire. Race / ethnicity, language spoken, employment and percentage of house units that are mobile homes had a low S0VI value of 1.0 thereby contributing positively to resilience to wildfire risk. The relationship between climate variability and wildfire occurrence in Missouri was analyzed by examining the correlation between wildfire seasonality frequency, acres burned, and temperature from 1995 to 2018 using Pearson correlation method. The results reveal no significant correlation between climate and wildfire occurrence in Missouri. However, the study observes that other factors such as arson arising from human activities could have contributed to wildfire occurrence in Missouri. Finally, the study examines the failure of wildfire mitigation policy framework in the state, and how this has impacted wildfire mitigation efforts in the state of Missouri. The study concludes that though government involvement in wildfire risk reduction is quite impressive, there is no policy framework at the local and state level towards combating wildfire hazards. This becomes necessary because wildfire in Missouri is human induced caused majorly by arson. The current social and demographic characteristics of forest landowners, land use change, wildland-urban-interface, ecological and climate change are critical factors that must be put into consideration in formulating effective and sustainable wildfire policy reduction initiatives in Missouri.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- Assessment of forest fire vulnerability zones in Missouri, United States of America -- Assessment of social vulnerability to wildfire in Missouri, United States of America -- Climate and wildfire in Missouri, United States of America -- Wildfire policy challenge in the United States: Implications of wildfire risk reduction in Missouri -- Conclusion
Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)