Methodology for incorporating large fire risk into landscape management decision making

By Pau Costa Foundation on

Landscape evolution in Europe has been closely linked to anthropic factors for centuries. These factors have been of different nature and have been changing along history. However, from the second half of 20th century, transformations are more intense and changes are accelerating. Land abandonment and agriculture and livestock farming intensification (Moreira et al. 2001), urban economic concentration, wildland‐urban‐interface sprawl, forest expansion (Améztegui et al. 2010) and protection, and lack of forest management, are the main drivers of change in Europe in the last decades, and all them are increasing wildfire occurrence risk, fire intensity and population exposure. During last years, wildfire extreme events have been recorded in several areas from Europe: Portugal (2003 and 2005), South‐East France (2003), Spain (2006, 2009 and 2012) and Greece (2000, 2007 and 2009), and even in more unusual regions as Sweden in 2014. The response from governments and public administrations to this challenge has been focused on the reinforcement to suppression policies, understanding forest fire as unforeseeable civil emergencies affecting randomly the landscape. Suppression policies have been quite successful with most of fires
ignited. Very few of them, only the fastest and more intense ones, behave out of capacity of control for fire services. But those few large wildfires (LWF) are the ones that burn most of the landscape, and get
people and communities feeling threatened and vulnerable. Large wildfires of the last decades show repeated fire patterns (Costa et al. 2011). Thus, large fires are no longer stochastic, unforeseeable processes, and so wildfire risk can be further integrated on land planning. Landscape planning seems to be one of the potential solutions to the large wildfires problem (Loepfe et al. 2012). Wildfire extinction policies have not been able to eliminate forest fire, but it has increased the importance of large wildfires (Piñol et al. 2007). Landscape planning can modify fire regime:

1. by managing the fuel, increasing the frequency and reducing intensity of disturbances
2. by helping fire brigades contain the fire where landscape is favourable, accepting the rest of the landscape will burn

Thus, wildfires become a multi‐sectorial issue relating forest managers, civil protection bodies and urban and land‐use planners, which should interrelate and collaborate aiming at reducing European landscape
vulnerability to large wildfires. Mediterranean ecosystems are particularly affected by global change, and tipping‐points might be reached during this century with the predicted increase of both the frequency and the intensity of disturbances associated to climate change, land‐use change and lifestyle (FAO 2013). Similar challenges may also appear in peripheral areas, specifically in Europe in northernmost limits. Given fire intrinsic presence in the ecosystems, the challenge does not consist in its final eradication of the systems, but in anticipate and reduce fires capacity of spread out of control capacity, and thus reduce goods and people damage. The solution has been manifested to not depend on the direct investment on suppression efforts, but considering an integrative landscape planning that incorporates potential wildfire occurrence and spread into landscape socioeconomic dynamics. The purpose of the present guide is to develop a methodology for incorporating wildfires risk in decisionmaking landscape management, aiming at facilitating easier choices between alternative management actions and fuel treatment, and thus reduce landscape vulnerability to large wildfires from a costeffectiveness perspective.

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