Vulnerability and adaptation to climate-related fire impacts in rural and urban interior Alaska

Polar Research
By: , and 

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Abstract

This paper explores whether fundamental differences exist between urban and rural vulnerability to climate-induced changes in the fire regime of interior Alaska. We further examine how communities and fire managers have responded to these changes and what additional adaptations could be put in place. We engage a variety of social science methods, including demographic analysis, semi-structured interviews, surveys, workshops and observations of public meetings. This work is part of an interdisciplinary study of feedback and interactions between climate, vegetation, fire and human components of the Boreal forest social–ecological system of interior Alaska. We have learned that although urban and rural communities in interior Alaska face similar increased exposure to wildfire as a result of climate change, important differences exist in their sensitivity to these biophysical, climate-induced changes. In particular, reliance on wild foods, delayed suppression response, financial resources and institutional connections vary between urban and rural communities. These differences depend largely on social, economic and institutional factors, and are not necessarily related to biophysical climate impacts per se. Fire management and suppression action motivated by political, economic or other pressures can serve as unintentional or indirect adaptation to climate change. However, this indirect response alone may not sufficiently reduce vulnerability to a changing fire regime. More deliberate and strategic responses may be required, given the magnitude of the expected climate change and the likelihood of an intensification of the fire regime in interior Alaska.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Vulnerability and adaptation to climate-related fire impacts in rural and urban interior Alaska
Series title Polar Research
DOI 10.1111/j.1751-8369.2009.00101.x
Volume 28
Year Published 2009
Language English
Publisher Norsk polarinstitutt
Publisher location Oslo
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Leetown
Description 19 p.
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Polar Research
First page 100
Last page 118
Country United States
State Alaska
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N