Wildfire in Hawaii
Wildfire now affects many thousands of hectares in Hawaii annually, with the proportion of total land area burned comparable to and often exceeding rates found in the western US. Drivers include abundant human-caused ignitions, suitable climatic conditions year-round, and the expansion of nonnative, fire-prone grasslands and shrublands – Hawaii’s most extensive vegetation type. Although most fire-related research in Hawaii examines the impacts of wildfire on native ecosystems, the keys to managing fire risk are more connected to human-caused ignitions and high flammability of nonnative, lowland vegetation. Hawaii’s derived grasslands remain understudied and largely unmanaged, can attain fine fuel loads 3-15 times greater than continental tropical grasslands, and extend from residential areas into the margins of watershed forests. These factors expose multiple sectors to wildfire risk – from residential communities to agriculture to natural resources.