Estimated impacts of forest restoration scenarios on smoke exposures among outdoor agricultural workers in California

Claire L. Schollaert, Ernesto Alvarado, Jill Baumgartner, Tania Busch Isaksen, Jihoon Jung, Miriam E. Marlier, Julian D. Marshall, Yuta J. Masuda, Christopher W. Tessum, Joseph Wilkins, June T. Spector

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

As wildfires continue to worsen across western United States, forest managers are increasingly employing prescribed burns as a way to reduce excess fuels and future wildfire risk. While the ecological benefits of these fuel treatments are clear, little is known about the smoke exposure tradeoffs of using prescribed burns to mitigate wildfires, particularly among at-risk populations. Outdoor agricultural workers are a population at increased risk of smoke exposure because of their time spent outside and the physical demands of their work. Here, we assess the smoke exposure impacts among outdoor agricultural workers resulting from the implementation of six forest management scenarios proposed for a landscape in the Central Sierra, California. We leverage emissions estimates from LANDIS-II to model daily PM2.5 concentrations with the Hybrid Single Particle Lagrangian Integrated Trajectory Model (HYSPLIT) and link those to agricultural employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We find a u-shaped result, in that moderate amounts of prescribed burning result in the greatest reduction in total smoke exposure among outdoor agricultural workers, particularly during months of peak agricultural activity due to wildfire-specific smoke reductions. The reduction in total smoke exposure, relative to scenarios with the least amount of management, decreases as more prescribed burning is applied to the landscape due to the contributions of the fuel treatments themselves to overall smoke burden. The results of this analysis may contribute to preparedness efforts aimed at reducing smoke exposures among outdoor agricultural workers, while also informing forest management planning for this specific landscape.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number014085
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Volume19
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2024
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • agricultural workers
  • air quality
  • environmental justice
  • occupational exposure
  • prescribed burns
  • smoke
  • wildfire

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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