Wildfires are a major disturbance in the Mediterranean Basin and an ecological factor that constantly alters the landscape. In this context, it is crucial to understand where wildfires are more likely to occur as well as the drivers guiding them in complex landscapes such as the Mediterranean area. The objectives of this study are to estimate wildfire probability occurrence as a function of biophysical and human-related drivers, to provide an assessment of the relative impact of each driver and analyze the performance of machine learning techniques compared to traditional regression modeling. By employing an Artificial Neural Network model and fire data (2004–2012), we estimated wildfire probability across two geographical regions covering most of the Italian territory: Alpine and subalpine region and Insular and peninsular region. The high classification accuracy (0.68 for the Alpine and subalpine region and 0.76 for the Insular and peninsular region) and good performances of the technique (AUC values of 0.82 and 0.76, respectively) suggest that our model can be used in the areas studied to assess wildfire probability occurrence. We compared our model with a logistic function, which showed a weaker predictive power (AUC values of 0.78 for the Alpine and subalpine region and 0.65 for the Insular and peninsular region) compared to the Artificial Neural Network. In addition, we assessed the importance of each variable by isolating it in the model. The importance of an individual variable differed between the two regions, underscoring the high diversity of wildfire occurrence drivers in Mediterranean landscapes. Results show that in the Alpine and subalpine region, the presence of forest is the most important variable, while climate resulted as being the most important variable in the Insular and peninsular region. The majority of areas recently affected by large wildfires in both regions have been correctly classified by the ANN model as ‘high fire probability’. Hence, the use of an Artificial Neural Network is efficient and robust for understanding the probability of wildfire occurrence in Italy and other similar complex landscapes.
Estimating the probability of wildfire occurrence in Mediterranean landscapes using Artificial Neural Networks / Elia, M.; D'Este, M.; Ascoli, D.; Giannico, V.; Spano, G.; Ganga, A.; Colangelo, G.; Lafortezza, R.; Sanesi, G.. - In: ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT REVIEW. - ISSN 0195-9255. - 85:(2020), p. 106474. [10.1016/j.eiar.2020.106474]