Climate change effects on wildfire hazards in the wildland-urban-interface - blue pine forests of Bhutan
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Lena Vilà-Vilardell; William S. Keeton; Dominik Thom; Choki Gyeltshen; Kaka Tshering; Georg Gratzer
Publication Year: 2020

Cataloging Information

  • adaptive management
  • Bhutan
  • blue pine
  • climate change
  • FlamMap
  • forest fire
  • Himalayas
  • Pinus wallichiana
  • rural livelihoods
  • wildfire simulation
  • wildfire simulation models
  • International
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: February 8, 2020
FRAMES Record Number: 60691


Increased wildfire activity in the Himalayan Mountains due to climate change may place rural livelihoods at risk, yet potential climate change effects on forest fires in this region are poorly investigated. Here we use Bhutan’s blue pine (Pinus wallichiana) ecosystems to study the sensitivity of fire behavior to climatic changes. Wildland fires are one of the biggest threats to forest resources in Bhutan; blue pine ecosystems, in particular, are of high concern because of their importance for rural livelihoods and relatively high frequency of forest fires. Due to the geographical and socioeconomic characteristics of Bhutan, the region is highly sensitive to climate change. We investigated fire hazards in the wildland-urban-interface (WUI) of two valleys in Bhutan (Thimphu and Jakar), where human settlements and infrastructure are surrounded by blue pine forests. We applied FlamMap, a spatially-explicit wildfire simulation model, to simulate fire behavior under four climate scenarios. As indicators of fire behavior, we used flame length, rate of spread, crown fire activity, burn probability, and fire size. With the simulation outcomes we constructed a fire hazard map showing the hotspots of forest fire susceptibility. FlamMap predicts a two-fold increase in fire hazards in the WUI for both study areas owing to climatic changes. The capital city of Thimphu has, on average, greater fire hazards than Jakar, though fire hazards are spatially variable within both study areas. Our study contributes to the understanding of and ability to predict forest fire hazards in Himalayan blue pine ecosystems. The findings will help to more precisely allocate fire management resources in the WUI, plan suburban development to minimize fire risk to livelihoods, and adapt forest management in the face of climate change.

Online Link(s):
Vilà-Vilardell, Lena; Keeton, William S.; Thom, Dominik; Gyeltshen, Choki; Tshering, Kaka; Gratzer, Georg. 2020. Climate change effects on wildfire hazards in the wildland-urban-interface - blue pine forests of Bhutan. Forest Ecology and Management 461:117927.