University of Hawaii researchers found that the state has seen an average of more than 1,000 fires burning over 20,000 acres each year within the last decade.
Researchers, Clay Trauernicht and Creighton Litton of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management also found that relative to total land area, the percentage of Hawaii that burned annually from 2005 to 2011 was comparable to, and in some years exceeded, that of the western United States.
Trauernicht and Litton showed that the frequency of ignitions was highest in developed areas, pointing to the fact that over 99 percent of known wildfire causes in Hawaii are due to human activities, unlike many parts of the mainland, where lightning is an important contributing factor.
The authors showed that human activities have also dramatically increased the "flammability" of Hawaii's landscapes through the spread and establishment of fire-prone, nonnative grasses.
This includes the introduction of these species for pastures and as ornamental plants, a legacy of deforestation for ranching and plantations, and, most recently, the widespread abandonment of agricultural lands.
On a more positive note, the researchers emphasize that since the links between wildfire and human activities are so strong in Hawai?i, there are far more ways that humans can cut down on the possibility of wildfire by changing those activities. They point to clear pathways to address the issue through public outreach and engagement and landscape-scale approaches to watershed management.