Socio-ecological characteristics of disturbance in Alaska

Due to the amplified effects of climate change at high latitudes, the extent, severity, and frequency of wildfire and epidemic spruce bark beetle (Dendroctonus rufipennis) infestation in Alaska are changing.

As predominant determinants of vegetation cover and human land use, these changes in disturbance properties due to climate and synergies amongst each other may have large impacts on future ecosystems and human livelihoods. 

The objectives of this study are to: 

  • Assess whether past beetle outbreaks on the Kenai Peninsula in south-central Alaska alter the characteristics of wildfire in the region 
  • Quantify how property values in the wildland-urban interface vary with time since the occurrence of different wildfires and beetle outbreaks on the Kenai Peninsula
  • Complement our findings with past literature to project future scenarios of vegetation cover and succession trajectories due to the effects of beetles and wildfire in interior Alaska 

Alaska will likely experience radical social and ecological change over the next human generation as a result of natural disturbance and climate change. This study could provide critical information, building a foundation for future research regarding the effects of natural disturbance on the landscape and empowering local stakeholders to navigate resulting environmental transformations in positive ways.

Areas of expertise: 
Scenario planning