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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 1 (2011 Deadline)

Towards a better assessment and management of wildfire risk in the wildland-urban interface in Lebanon: gaining from US experience    

PI: George Mitri, University of Balamand
U.S. Partner:  David B. McWethy, Montana State University 
Project Dates: August 2012 - February 2014

Project Overview

Increasingly, Lebanon’s forests are exposed to degradation due to urbanization, fires, climate change, human neglect, improper management, outdated laws, and poor law enforcement. During the last decades, changes in traditional land-use and lifestyl
Lebanon Partnership B
Edward Antoun, George Mitri, Dave McWethy, and Mireille Jazi during a field survey in the United States (Photo courtesy George Mitri).
es, depopulation of rural areas, decreases in grazing pressure and wood gathering, and increases in the urbanization of rural areas are leading to the recovery of vegetation and an increase in accumulated fuel. Land-use changes are occurring in parallel with increases in fires, which have gone from being few in number and affecting small areas to becoming numerous and affecting large areas yearly.
This project looks to develop the capacity of stakeholders in Lebanon to assess and manage wildfire r isk in Lebanon’s wildland-urban interface (WUI) in light of future climate change and human development in wildland areas. Another goal of the project is to improve knowledge and understanding among university students, local community groups, and municipalities about the nature and risks of wildfire in Lebanon’s WUI. Specific project activities will include investigating the feasibility of developing a wildfire-climate model for Lebanon that simulates the interactions among climate change, expansion of human development into wildland areas, and wildfire risk. The researchers will identify data needs and partnerships necessary for future development of a wildfire-climate model for Lebanon and then develop materials that would demonstrate how such a model can be used by Lebanese stakeholders to adaptively manage wildfire risk in the WUI for future climate and land use changes. They will also develop the capacity of the community of interest (i.e., land and wildland fire management agencies, homeowners, and community and regional planners) to assess and manage wildfire risk and incorporate their research results into educational products to increase understanding of wildfire risk by the broader community.
Summary of Recent Activities
During the months of October through December 2013, the research team finalized all the maps at the municipality/village level which will be included in the handbook on Managing Future Wildfire Risk in the wildland-urban interface (WUI) in Lebanon. The team is developing a web-application as part of the decision framework that the community of interest can use to adaptively manage future wildfire risk; the site also serves as the project’s webpage and also aims to provide a modern and user-friendly alternative which can help improve wildfire risk awareness and decision-making. The team continues their follow-up on the agreement signed with the Ministry of Environment on collecting fire data from official field fire ID cards for data analysis, and is finalizing the state of Lebanon’s fire report of 2008. As part of the ongoing project outreach, the PI of the project George Mitri actively participated in a roundtable discussion on November 17, 2013 at Le Royal Hotel, Beirut, where he met with Thomas Tidwell, Chief of the US Forest Service, as well as representatives of a number of Lebanese civil society organizations, institutions, and municipalities. This event presented the opportunity to expose the USAID-PEER project, its main objectives, and achievements. The event was organized by Lebanon Reforestation Initiative (LRI), a project funded by USAID and implemented by USFS. During the upcoming months the research team’s activities will include demonstration how their web-application model can be used by local stakeholders to make optimal wildfire-related decisions. The team is planning to organize one training workshop for practitioners and individuals from the community in interdisciplinary modeling and analysis of a coupled natural-human system for managing future wildfire risk as well. Brochures and posters will be developed showing comprising practical information on improved assessment and management of Wildfire Risk in the Wildland-Urban Interface in Lebanon, highlighting the main results of the project. A number of scientific papers will be prepared and submitted for publication in peer reviewed journal and conference proceedings as well.

  Lebanon Partnership A

Edward Antoun and Mireille Jazi during a field survey in North Lebanon (Photo courtesy George Mitri).Discussion with Thomas Tidwell, Chief of the U.S. Forest Service (Photo courtesy George Mitri)