[Iag-list] ESRC Wales Doctoral Training Partnership PhD Studentship: Vegetation Fires and their Management

Christine Eriksen ceriksen at uow.edu.au
Tue Feb 6 13:13:34 AEDT 2018

Human Geography: ESRC Wales Doctoral Training Partnership PhD Studentship: Vegetation Fires and their Management: from Perceptions to Policy Closing date: imminent
Key Information
Swansea University and the Economic & Social Research Council’s (ESRC) Wales Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) are offering a fully-funded PhD studentship in collaboration with Brecon Beacons National Park, Natural Resources Wales, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, Forestry Commission England, and Welsh Water
Vegetation Fires and their Management: from Perceptions to Policy

The project aims to understand the character and consequences of UK society’s perceptions of vegetation fires, both as natural hazard (wildfires) and land management tool (managed burning). This is a pressing issue given changes in UK uplands in the 21st century. Fire as management tool is fiercely debated. Scientists, land managers and Fire and Rescue Services [FRS] support its use for reducing wildfire risk, and maintaining grazing land and biodiversity. However, wider public perception is seemingly negative and resistant to its use, possibly influenced by biased media reports. The project steps back from this debate to obtain nuanced understanding of how different groups experience, understand and react both to threats from wildfire and to managed burning.

Vegetation fire research has overwhelmingly focused on fire behaviour and ecology, with few studies of social understandings. This is a significant gap. Vegetation fires are a major phenomenon in 21st century UK with increasing impacts due to changing landscapes. Wildfires are a public safety and environmental risk: FRS annually respond to ~70,000 vegetation fires, with direct costs of ~£55M. Furthermore, whilst UK uplands have lost agricultural economic functions, their ‘consumption’ values rise continuously, bringing increasing numbers of (urban) people into fire-risk areas. Such risk is being exacerbated by climate warming plus shifts towards forestry and decreased grazing. Notwithstanding this, fire has been used for centuries for land management and, as agricultural abandonment increases, provides a cost-effective maintenance tool. We require much better understanding of societal perceptions of fire to guide land management in minimizing future conflict.

The project builds on a successful pilot study that focused on the Brecon Beacons National Park. Its broader reach and scope make it ideal for a UK-wide study. A combination of quantitative and qualitative methods will identify and analyse the content of and differences within stakeholder groups’ and the wider public’s perceptions of vegetation fires. Statistically analysed surveys of urban and rural residents will provide generalised understanding. Qualitative approaches, such as key-informant interviews and contextual ‘walking’ interviews, will provide insights into the everyday place of vegetation fires. Target groups include land-management bodies, policy-makers, farmers, leisure users, and the public.

Besides academic insights into UK society’s perceptions of vegetation fires, project outcomes will inform land managers and policy-makers on promising approaches to wildfire prevention and future use of managed burning. Overall, the project combines both intellectual and applied ambitions.
The successful candidate is expected to start their studentship in October 2018
Contacts: Keith Halfacree (K.H.Halfacree at Swansea.ac.uk<mailto:K.H.Halfacree at swansea.ac.uk>), Cristina Santin (C.Santin at swansea.ac.uk<mailto:C.Santin at swansea.ac.uk>), Stefan Doerr (s.doerr at swansea.ac.uk<mailto:s.doerr at swansea.ac.uk>)

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