Managing fire risk at the wildland-urban interface requires reconciliation of tradeoffs between regulating and cultural ecosystem services

By yaella.depietri on

Forest fires at the wildland-urban interface are generating increasing losses due to the expansion of cities into adjacent forests. At the same time, urban green open spaces are highly valuable as sources of recreational, educational and aesthetic benefits. Tradeoffs may arise between the desire to preserve peri-urban forests for cultural ecosystem services and the need to manage them to enhance the regulatory capacity of the ecosystem and reduce fire risk. In this paper, we assess cultural services and fire regulating services in the urban forest of the city of Haifa (Israel) using participatory GIS mapping, and we look at tradeoffs between these services. We interviewed intensive users of the green spaces of the city and fire experts regarding the location of these services and preferences about selected vegetation management strategies to reduce fire risk. Green space users promoted the idea of a pristine environment and its conservation, mainly for recreational purposes, while fire experts suggested that vegetation management is needed although this would bring about changes in the landscape. Tradeoffs between cultural and regulating services can thus generate conflicts. We conclude by suggesting ways seemingly opposing objectives can be reconciled to reduce fire risk at wildland-urban interface and in a lasting way.

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Highlights • Tradeoffs can originate between cultural and fire regulating services at the WUI. • Certain ideas of nature conflict with the need to reduce fire risk. • It is possible to identify synergies for successful fire risk reduction and increase cultural services at the same time. • At the WUI the technological component is important to mediate potential conflicts.