An overview of methods for incorporating wildfires into forest planning models

Pete Bettinger


The introduction or modification of land use regulations and sustainability initiatives over the last few decades has arguably increased the complexity of forest planning processes. Given the planning goals of a land management organization, both spatial and temporal characteristics of desired future landscapes may now be important to recognize. In some cases of planning, wildfire plays an important economic and ecological role. Efforts to model the potential effects of forest wildfires have ranged from manipulation of vegetation strata using hazard ratings or disturbance probabilities, to spatially recognizing the spread of wildfires across a landscape. This paper describes a range of options for incorporating wildfires into forest planning models, and discusses the challenges and limitations related to each. Linear programming, binary search, simulation models, and heuristics have all been used to assess the impacts of wildfire on forest planning goals. Wildfire has been incorporated into forest planning processes in both deterministic and stochastic manners, with some suggesting that the deterministic route provides a close approximation to historical stochastic events. When stochastic measures are employed, the position of the wildfire, the frequency, and the intensity can all be drawn from probability distributions, although only a few of the recognized works model these to the full extent. In general, the greater the stochastic measures employed, the stronger the implication is that multiple simulations are necessary to assess potential impacts. Further, the more complex the wildfire integration process becomes, the implication seems to be that simulation models and heuristics are necessary.  MCFNS 2(1):43-52.


Operations research; linear programming; binary search; dynamic programming; simulation; heuristics

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