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Forest Fires

2013-06-24

Total forestland in the Mediterranean region occupies around 10% of the region's whole land [1]. Among possible forest disturbances, fires are perhaps the most threatening for Mediterranean forests [2]. They occur every year and burn, on average, about 500000 hectares of forests in Europe, 95% of which lies in the Mediterranean basin. Besides the human behaviour component, climate and climate change can be considered an important factor affecting the occurrence of fires. Climate change impacts, such as increasing temperatures, heat waves, changing precipitation patterns, and growing drought severity, translate in higher frequency and intensity also impacting the spread of forest fires.

Forest fires start easily but often spread rapidly, challenging fire suppression efforts. They cause severe ecological damages, tremendous impacts on livelihoods - worsening conditions of people relying on forest products and services, dampening effects on infrastructure value, loss in touristic flows, and even a dramatic toll in human lives. The economic and environmental damage caused by such fires extends well beyond the affected areas and biodiversity and livelihoods conditions may take decades to be restored.

In addition, the environmental impact of forest fires is not limited to destruction of vegetation and damage to biodiversity and ecosystem services. They also result in a release of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere and a reduction of the forest carbon sequestration capacity, outflow of mineral nutrients, devastation of the ground-layer organic matter, and ,soil erosion or loss.

It has been widely recognized that fire prevention is the most effective way to face forest fires. Preventing fire occurrences would imply adjustments in ecological, social, and economic systems both at regional and local level.

Ex-ante adaptive strategies should be developed and implemented by decision-makers and stakeholders, also considering the position of experts and/or scientists and the results of European research projects in the field (e.g. FUME, etc) [3]. Ex-post adaptation measures appertain to the whole society in addition to governors. Action is therefore needed at all levels so that all these communities should work in a cooperative fashion. Their experiences and activities  should feed the international debate on forest carbon sinks in addition to serve to develop better forest conservation and management guidelines. Co-benefits from an improved forest management could very likely have impacts on the stringency of stabilization policies for the Mediterranean region as well.

 

 

Lines of Evidence

Expert Views

Experts opinion about the Area of Interest giving an overview of the priority of this area.

  • Prof. Gidi Ne'eman, Associate Professor at the Department of Biology and Environment, Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Haifa-Oranim (Israel), Prof. Ido Izhaki, Professor of Biology at Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology, Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Haifa (Israel) and Prof. Jon E. Keeley, Research ecologist at U.S. Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center, Sequoia-Kings Canyon Field Station, and Adjunct Professor at the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California (USA) [READ MORE

CIRCLE-2 Ongoing activities

The CIRCLE-2 past activities that were related with the area. [READ MORE]

Links to other initiatives

EU FP6 and FP7 Projects on forest fire research:

FUME

FIRESMART

FORFIRE

FIRESENSE

KULTURISK

FIREPARADOX

 

Other international initiatives:

Global Fire Monitoring Center

Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre

International Year of Forest-2011

UN-ISDR

International Association of Wildland Fire

FAO Forestry Field Programme

 

 


[1] FAO, 2012

[2] Alexandrian D, Esnault F, Calabri G (1999) Forest fires in the Mediterranean area. Unasylva 197(50):35-41

[3] FUME - FP7 EU Project: Forest fires under climate, social and economic changes in Europe, the Mediterranean and other fire-affected areas of the world.