Landscape Ecology

, Volume 30, Issue 10, pp 1943–1957

Climate change and wildfire risk in an expanding wildland–urban interface: a case study from the Colorado Front Range Corridor

  • Zhihua Liu
  • Michael C. Wimberly
  • Aashis Lamsal
  • Terry L. Sohl
  • Todd J. Hawbaker
Research Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10980-015-0222-4

Cite this article as:
Liu, Z., Wimberly, M.C., Lamsal, A. et al. Landscape Ecol (2015) 30: 1943. doi:10.1007/s10980-015-0222-4



Wildfire is a particular concern in the wildland–urban interface (WUI) of the western United States where human development occurs close to flammable natural vegetation.


(1) Assess the relative influences of WUI expansion versus climate-driven fire regime change on spatial and temporal patterns of burned WUI, and (2) determine whether WUI developed in the future will have higher or lower wildfire risk than existing WUI.


We projected the spatial pattern of the WUI and its associated wildfire risk from 2005 to 2050 at 90-m spatial resolution and 5-year intervals in Colorado Front Range using CHANGE, a landscape change model that simulates land cover and land use change, natural vegetation dynamics, and wildfire in a unified framework. A total of four scenarios from a factorial design with static versus changing WUI and static versus changing fire regimes were simulated to examine the effects of WUI expansion and climate-driven fire regime change on burned area in the WUI.


Both WUI expansion and fire regime change contributed to the increase of burned WUI, but fire regime change had a stronger influence. The effects of WUI expansion and fire regime change had a combined influence greater than the sum of their individual effects. This interaction was a result of projected WUI expansion into regions of higher wildfire risk than existing WUI.


The human footprint will continue to expand into wildland areas and must be considered along with climate effects when assessing the impacts of changing fire regimes in future landscapes.


Disturbance Coupled human and natural systems Western United States Land use Land cover Social–ecological systems 

Supplementary material

10980_2015_222_MOESM1_ESM.docx (4.9 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 5057 kb)

Funding information

Funder NameGrant NumberFunding Note
U.S. Geological Survey
  • G12AC20295

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zhihua Liu
    • 1
  • Michael C. Wimberly
    • 1
  • Aashis Lamsal
    • 1
  • Terry L. Sohl
    • 2
  • Todd J. Hawbaker
    • 3
  1. 1.Geospatial Sciences Center of ExcellenceSouth Dakota State UniversityBrookingsUSA
  2. 2.U.S. Geological SurveyEarth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) CenterSioux FallsUSA
  3. 3.U.S. Geological SurveyGeosciences and Environmental Change Science CenterDenverUSA

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