Projects Funded for George Pardee Jr.

2020-2021

Do Eucalyptus Trees Increase Wildfire Spread and Threaten California Agriculturalists?

  • George Pardee Jr.
  • Maximilian Auffhammmer

Abstract

Specific Objectives of the Project:
(1) Estimate whether eucalyptus trees increase wildfire spread relative to other land use types, including other forest, cropland, or rangeland.
(2) Assess wildfire threat to California agriculturalists from eucalyptus trees

Project Report/Summary of Results: We exploit exogenous variation in wind direction to estimate whether eucalyptus trees increase fire spread. Contrary to popular belief, we find no evidence that eucalyptus trees increase total burn area relative to other forest types. Using the full sample of 188,926 fires in California between 1992 and 2015, we estimate that eucalyptus trees decrease total burn area by 8.8 percentage points. When we restrict the sample to the 7% of fires that burn more than 10 acres (0.04 km2), the effect of eucalyptus is indistinguishable from zero (0.8 percentage point decrease with a standard error of 0.6 percentage points). We conclude that California agriculturalists face little fire threat from eucalyptus trees. Removing eucalyptus trees does not appear to be an effective strategy for mitigating the threat of wildfires in California.