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Wildfire risk as a socioecological pathology

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

A Paige Fischer, Thomas A Spies, Toddi A Steelman, Cassandra Moseley, Bart R Johnson, John D Bailey, Alan A Ager, Patrick Bourgeron, Susan Charnley, Brandon M Collins, Jeffrey D Kline, Jessica E Leahy, Jeremy S Littell, James DA Millington, Max Nielsen-Pincus, Christine S Olsen, Travis B Paveglio, Christopher I Roos, Michelle M Steen-Adams, Forrest R Stevens & 3 others Jelena Vukomanovic, Eric M White, David MJS Bowman

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-284
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and the Environment
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016


King's Authors



Wildfire risk in temperate forests has become a nearly intractable problem that can be characterized as a socioecological “pathology”: that is, a set of complex and problematic interactions among social and ecological systems across multiple spatial and temporal scales. Assessments of wildfire risk could benefit from recognizing and accounting for these interactions in terms of socioecological systems, also known as coupled natural and human systems (CNHS). We characterize the primary social and ecological dimensions of the wildfire risk pathology, paying particular attention to the governance system around wildfire risk, and suggest strategies to mitigate the pathology through innovative planning approaches, analytical tools, and policies. We caution that even with a clear understanding of the problem and possible solutions, the system by which human actors govern fire-prone forests may evolve incrementally in imperfect ways and can be expected to resist change even as we learn better ways to manage CNHS.

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