Report on challenges for wildfire risk integration into land planning

By tim.green_195 on

Authors: Alexander Held, Tim Green (European Forest Insitute, EFI)

Since the birth of forestry as a discipline (in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries) and until fairly recently, forest management and forest policy have generally had a relatively narrow focus. Disturbances, such as fire or wind-throw, were mainly assessed in terms of the damage they caused rather than their role in succession, ecosystem functioning (Puettmann et al., 2012) or indeed as a part of fire prevention. There was a policy to try to exclude such disturbances across large areas of European forests in order to maximise the economic outputs of the forest (particularly timber). Fire-fighting methods have also become increasingly effective in the 20th century. A number of socio-economic changes in Europe are also relevant. In some areas the rural population who have tended the land are moving away and there has been a trend towards abandonment of agricultural land. This has led to re-colonization of the land by scrub and trees. With regard to the development of forests, nature conservation and preservation of biodiversity this development can be viewed as positive, but it does mean that fuel loads on land are increasing. In a review of farmland abandonment in Europe Keenleyside and Tucker (2010) suggested that a mid-range estimate for land abandonment by 2030 was 3-4% of the total land area (some 12.6-16.8 million ha) if current trends continue. There has also been a concentration of population in urban areas with an associated urban expansion. This has increased the wildland-urban interface and the risk to populations living in these areas of fire. As well as rural population moving to the city, there has also been a counter-migration of urban and suburban dwellers into rural areas – people who work in urban areas but live in the city. For whatever reason – lack of time, different expectations from the surrounding area – this new urban population views the rural area in a different way, and fuel loads on land that was previously managed for agriculture are growing. [...]

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