Each summer we hear terrible news about forest fires from world fire prone areas, a trend that has continued this year with the tragic news from Portugal, France, the USA. Unfortunately, more are expected to come. Obviously, the urgency lies with combating the fires and providing help to local communities, but once the crisis is past, policy makers cannot answer the increasing problem just by buying more planes.
This is the reflection of experts at the European Forest Institute (EFI), as well as the motivation behind the making of a video that looks at the key factors of increased forest fire risk in the Mediterranean region and promotes a new vision based on shifting the focus from reactive fire suppression to long-term proactive fire prevention and forest management.
There are several key factors that increase forest fire risk in the Mediterranean region:
• the expansion of forests
• the increase in fuel loads
• the high number of fire ignitions
• climate change and increasing weather risk conditions
In the past, the focus has been on fire suppression, costing billions of Euros each year, rather than on long-term strategies for fire prevention. Now, the EFI proposes a new vision where the focus is put on fire prevention and forest management: helping forests to be more resilient to climate change, and managing resources to reduce fuel loads and fuel continuity at a landscape level.
Bioeconomy can help to ensure the economic sustainability of the new vision. Bioeconomy offers new opportunities to develop forest value chains around bioenergy, engineered wood products for sustainable construction, biomaterials based on cork and resin, or edible forest products. Developing a Mediterranean bioeconomy can provide the incentives and investments needed for forest owners to address the risk of forest fires while managing and enhancing the resilience of forest landscapes, and ensuring the provision of key ecosystem services, and therefore reducing the risk of catastrophic fires.
* Text adapted from a press release produced by the EFI.