The global wildland-urban interface

Abstract

The wildland-urban interface (WUI) is where buildings and wildland vegetation meet or intermingle(1,2). It is where human-environmental conflicts and risks can be concentrated, including the loss of houses and lives to wildfire, habitat loss and fragmentation and the spread of zoonotic diseases(3). However, a global analysis of the WUI has been lacking. Here, we present a global map of the 2020 WUI at 10 m resolution using a globally consistent and validated approach based on remote sensing-derived datasets of building area(4) and wildland vegetation(5). We show that the WUI is a global phenomenon, identify many previously undocumented WUI hotspots and highlight the wide range of population density, land cover types and biomass levels in different parts of the global WUI. The WUI covers only 4.7% of the land surface but is home to nearly half its population (3.5 billion). The WUI is especially widespread in Europe (15% of the land area) and the temperate broadleaf and mixed forests biome (18%). Of all people living near 2003-2020 wildfires (0.4 billion), two thirds have their home in the WUI, most of them in Africa (150 million). Given that wildfire activity is predicted to increase because of climate change in many regions(6), there is a need to understand housing growth and vegetation patterns as drivers of WUI change.

Publication
Nature
Patrick Hostert
Patrick Hostert
Principal Investigator