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A Landscape-Scale Optimisation Model to Break the Hazardous Fuel Continuum While Maintaining Habitat Quality

Abstract

Wildfires have demonstrated their destructive powers in several parts of the world in recent years. In an effort to mitigate the hazard of large catastrophic wildfires, a common practice is to reduce fuel loads in the landscape. This can be achieved through prescribed burning or mechanically. Prioritising areas to treat is a challenge for landscape managers. To help deal with this problem, we present a spatially explicit, multiperiod mixed integer programming model. The model is solved to yield a plan to generate a dynamic landscape mosaic that optimally fragments the hazardous fuel continuum while meeting ecosystem considerations. We demonstrate that such a multiperiod plan for fuel management is superior to a myopic strategy. We also show that a range of habitat quality values can be achieved without compromising the optimal fuel reduction objective. This suggests that fuel management plans should also strive to optimise habitat quality. We illustrate how our model can be used to achieve this even in the special case where a faunal species requires mature habitat that is also hazardous from a wildfire perspective. The challenging computational effort required to solve the model can be overcome with either a rolling horizon approach or lexicographically. Typical Australian heathland landscapes are used to illustrate the model but the approach can be implemented to prioritise treatments in any fire-prone landscape where preserving habitat connectivity is a critical constraint.

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Acknowledgments

The authors are very grateful to an anonymous reviewer whose comments and suggestions have helped considerably in enhancing this paper.

Funding

This work has been supported by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie RISE H2020 project GEO-SAFE (691161), Government of Spain (MTM2015-65803-R), the Goverment of Madrid (S2013/ICE-2845 CASI-CAM-CM) and the UCM grant (CT27/16-CT28/16).

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Correspondence to John W. Hearne.

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León, J., Reijnders, V.M.J.J., Hearne, J.W. et al. A Landscape-Scale Optimisation Model to Break the Hazardous Fuel Continuum While Maintaining Habitat Quality. Environ Model Assess 24, 369–379 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10666-018-9642-2

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Keywords

  • Wildfires
  • Spatial optimisation
  • Fuel continuum
  • Habitat quality
  • Multiperiod landscape planning
  • Mixed integer programming