Detecting critical nodes in forest landscape networks to reduce wildfire spread
Although wildfires are an important ecological process in forested regions worldwide, they can cause significant economic damage and frequently create widespread health impacts. We propose a network optimization approach to plan wildfire fuel treatments that minimize the risk of fire spread in forested landscapes under an upper bound for total treated area. We used simulation modeling to estimate the probability of fire spread between pairs of forest sites and formulated a modified Critical Node Detection (CND) model that uses these estimated probabilities to find a pattern of fuel reduction treatments that minimizes the likely spread of fires across a landscape. We also present a problem formulation that includes control of the size and spatial contiguity of fuel treatments. We demonstrate the approach with a case study in Kootenay National Park, British Columbia, Canada, where we investigated prescribed burn options for reducing the risk of wildfire spread in the park area. Our results provide new insights into cost-effective planning to mitigate wildfire risk in forest landscapes. The approach should be applicable to other ecosystems with frequent wildfires.