Exploratory Analysis of Environmental and Social Drivers of Wildfires: Oregon, USA Open Access

Finestone, Erin (2016)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/8623hz34h?locale=en
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Abstract

Wildfires are an ecological disturbance intrinsic to many forest, shrub land and grassland ecosystems and play an important role in shaping these ecosystem processes. Despite the necessary (and often) beneficial role of wildfires, they have numerous harmful impacts. From a public health perspective, wildfires adversely affect human mental and physical health. There is rising concern that these undesired health outcomes will intensify in the future as climate models predict an increase in wildfire frequency, severity, and extent throughout the United States. This study sought to explore historic wildfires and understand what anthropogenic and environmental factors are key drivers for wildfire incidence in the state of Oregon. We employed basic descriptive statistics, ANOVA, and univariate logistic regression to achieve this end. Results from the analyses showed that wildfires are increasing in both frequency and extent throughout the state. Furthermore, environmental variables including drought, temperature (average, maximum, and minimum), precipitation, and land cover type are significant predictors for wildfire occurrence in Oregon. This study was the first to assess the importance of such variables for wildfire incidence in Oregon.

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION..................................................9
WILDFIRES..................................................10
ENVIRONMENTAL VARIABLES - CLIMATE............10
ENVIRONMENTAL VARIABLES - TOPOGRAPHY .....11
SOCIAL VARIABLES........................................12
WILDFIRES IN OREGON...................................13
WILDFIRES AND HEALTH.................................15
PURPOSE OF STUDY......................................16


METHODS.......................................................17
DATA COLLECTION.......................................17
DESCRIPTIVE ANALYSIS................................19
UNIVARIATE ANALYSIS..................................20
ANALYSIS OF VARIANCE (ANOVA)...................20


RESULTS........................................................20
DESCRIPTIVE ANALYSIS................................20
Wildfires (all)..............................................20
Wildfires (anthropogenic vs. natural)...............22
ANALYSIS OF VARIANCE (ANOVA)...................23
UNIVARIATE ANALYSIS.................................24
Fire vs. Control...........................................24
Anthropogenic vs. Natural Fire.......................24


DISCUSSION..................................................25
LIMITATIONS..............................................27
FUTURE RESEARCH......................................28
CONCLUSION..............................................28
REFERENCES..............................................29
TABLES AND FIGURES..................................32
APPENDICES..............................................43
APPENDIX I...............................................43

Tables and Figures

Table 1. Summary Statistics: Fire cause................................................................ 32

Table 2. Summary Statistics: Fire Cause by Region.................................................. 32

Table 3 Explanatory Variables.............................................................................. 33

Table 4. ANOVA Results: Decade.......................................................................... 33

Table 5. ANOVA Results: Fire Cause...................................................................... 33

Table 6. Univariate Regression: All fire................................................................... 34

Table 7. Univariate Regression: Natural Fire............................................................ 34

Table 8. Univariate Regression: Anthropogenic Fire.................................................. 35

Figure 1. Causal Pathway.................................................................................... 36

Figure 2. Oregon Wildfires.................................................................................... 37

Figure 3. Static Variables of Interest...................................................................... 38

Figure 4. Point Density Maps................................................................................. 39

Figure 5. Explanatory Variable Histograms................................................................ 40

Figure 6. Wildfire Numbers and Extent..................................................................... 41

Figure 7. Natural Wildfires: Count and Extent........................................................... 42

Figure 8. Anthropogenic Wildfires: Count and Extent.................................................. 43

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