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
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forests are exposed to degradation due to urbanization, fires, climate change, human neglect, improper management, outdated laws, and poor law enforcement.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 lifestyles, 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 risk 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 June through September 2013, the research team completed mapping the wildland-urban interface (WUI) to simulate urban development into wildland areas. They are in the final stages of developing their wildfire-climate model, which will help simulate the relationship between climate change, urban expansion into wildland areas, and wildfire risk in the WUI by using the fire potential index (KBDI). They have uploaded their research activity maps to the project website hosted by the University of Balamand (home.balamand.edu.lb/wildfire
) and have begun promoting the site. In addition, Dr. Mitri and his group took part in a meeting on July 9, 2013, to set a mechanism of coordination with officials from the Ministry of Environment. An agreement was signed with the Ministry on collection of fire data from official field fire ID cards for data analysis, and a report will be produced as a result. Meanwhile, students from the university’s Department of Environmental Sciences have been engaged in different research aspects of the project through their internships, projects, and theses; papers are being prepared for publication in close cooperation with the U.S. collaborator. The research team is beginning to develop a web application that may be useful in decision making and may enable map integration and use within ongoing initiatives such as the USAID-Lebanon Reforestation Initiative. During the next several months they are aiming to finalize a decision framework that the community of interest can use to adaptively manage future wildfire risk in the WUI. Because the decision framework will be associated with maps and a web-application, the research team is also aiming to demonstrate how the model can be used by local stakeholders to make optimal wildfire-related decisions. A training workshop on interdisciplinary modeling and analysis of a coupled natural-human system for managing future wildfire risk will be organized for practitioners and interested members of the community. Going forward, a handbook with practical guidelines on Managing Future Wildfire Risk in the WUI in Lebanon, including success stories, will be published. A CD for a web-application program that allows users to interactively simulate wildfire-related decisions for alternative future changes in climate and economic growth in a hypothetical WUI is expected to be released as well. Additional project outreach efforts will include production of brochures and posters with practical information on improved assessment and management of wildfire risk in the WUI in Lebanon.
Edward Antoun and Mireille Jazi during a field survey in
North Lebanon (Photo courtesy George Mitri).
Edward Antoun, George Mitri, Dave McWethy, and Mireille Jazi during
a field survey in the United States (Photo courtesy George Mitri).