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
US 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forests are exposed to degradation due to urbanization, fires, climate change, human neglect, improper management, outdated laws, and poor law enforcement.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
In early 2013 Dr. George Mitri and research assistant Mireille Jazi were joined by a second research assistant, Edward Antoun, in their efforts to complete tasks related to socioeconomic/forest fire research. The team launched the socioeconomic portion of their study and is continuing the geospatial modeling of urban development into wildland areas with the use of object-based image analysis. They also began collecting data on different socioeconomic variables, including the use of satellite remote sensing images, Geographic Information System (GIS) data, and other ancillary data such as National Agricultural statistics, economic reports, etc. To this end, the team acquired a new satellite image, namely DMC (25 m spatial resolution), covering the entire Lebanese territory. The team is begun classifying socioeconomic variables into thematic groups—economic (agricultural production, livestock production, industry, etc.) and social (population, settlements, etc.)—in order to create an inventory of available socioeconomic data. Dr. Mitri and his junior colleagues are developing a wildfire-climate model that can help in simulating the interactions among climate change, urban expansion into wildland areas, and wildfire risk in the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) with the use of a fire potential index (KBDI). They have also initiated dissemination activities,including designing and posting a project Web site
. Students from the Department of Environmental Sciences have been engaged in the project’s various research aspects through their internships, projects, or theses.
Edward Antoun and Mireille Jazi during a field survey in North Lebanon.
Edward Antoun (left), Mireille Jazi (middle), and George Mitri (right) during
a field survey in North Lebanon.
As for future plans, Dr. Mitri, Ms. Jazi, and Mr. Antoun will visit the United States in June 2013. In the coming months the team will begin developing a decision framework that the community of interest can use to adaptively manage future wildfire risk in the WUI. They also plan to organize an initial technical workshop for stakeholders in Lebanon in June, which is expected to contribute to the improved development of the decision framework.