Digital forestry in the wildland-urban interface
Growing human populations have led to the expansion of the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) across the southeastern United States. The juxtaposition of buildings, infrastructure, and forests in the WUI creates challenges for natural resource managers. The presence of flammable vegetation, high rates of human-caused ignitions and high building densities combine to increase risks of catastrophic loss from wildfire in the WUI. At the same time, fragmentation of large ownerships into smaller parcels and changing demographics may limit the possibilities for managing fuels with prescribed fire. To make effective decisions in this environment, land managers will need to integrate a large volume of information characterizing the physical features, biological characteristics, and human dimensions of these landscapes. Remote sensing and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technologies are crucial in this regard, but they must also be integrated with field surveys, fire behavior models, and decision-support tools to carry out risk assessments and develop management plans for the WUI. This chapter outlines the types of geospatial datasets that are currently available to map fuels and fire risk, provides examples of how GIS has been applied in the WUI, and suggests future directions for the integration of GIS datasets and spatial models to support forest management in the WUI.