A complex network theory approach for the spatial distribution of fire breaks in heterogeneous forest landscapes for the control of wildland fires

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Abstract

Based on complex network theory, we propose a computational methodology which addresses the spatial distribution of fuel breaks for the inhibition of the spread of wildland fires on heterogeneous landscapes. This is a two-level approach where the dynamics of fire spread are modeled as a random Markov field process on a directed network whose edge weights are determined by a Cellular Automata model that integrates detailed GIS, landscape and meteorological data. Within this framework, the spatial distribution of fuel breaks is reduced to the problem of finding network nodes (small land patches) which favour fire propagation. Here, this is accomplished by exploiting network centrality statistics. We illustrate the proposed approach through (a) an artificial forest of randomly distributed density of vegetation, and (b) a real-world case concerning the island of Rhodes in Greece whose major part of its forest was burned in 2008. Simulation results show that the proposed methodology outperforms the benchmark/conventional policy of fuel reduction as this can be realized by selective harvesting and/or prescribed burning based on the density and flammability of vegetation. Interestingly, our approach reveals that patches with sparse density of vegetation may act as hubs for the spread of the fire.

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Russo, L., Russo, P., & Siettos, C. I. (2016). A complex network theory approach for the spatial distribution of fire breaks in heterogeneous forest landscapes for the control of wildland fires. PLoS ONE, 11(10). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0163226

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