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Land Development Patterns and Adaptive Capacity for Wildfire: Three Examples from Florida

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“Fire-adapted” human communities have been promoted as essential for decreasing the costs of wildfire suppression while enhancing the ability of human populations to live with wildfire. We argue that achievement of fire-adapted communities will be improved by understanding how social elements of adaptive capacity for wildfire interact with structural conditions at the local level. Insights from focus groups conducted with local leaders and professionals are used to differentiate between the types/degrees of wildfire adaptation demonstrated in Lee County, Florida. We use structuration theory to explain how different manifestations of community action might be needed for adaptation to wildfire given different structural conditions. Results suggest that structural conditions (development patterns, biophysical conditions, and demographics/socioeconomics) influence adaptive capacity and identify local social characteristics and processes that support adaptation (interactional capacity/horizontal networks, local knowledge/skills, vertical information/resource networks, and organizational capacity). Assessing structural conditions and existing capacities of localities is a first step in fostering local adaptation.
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Keywords: adaptation; focus groups; preparedness; wildfire risk

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2013-05-01

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