Socioeconomic Impacts of Forest Fires upon Portugal: An Analysis for the Agricultural and Forestry Sectors

By Guillem Canaleta on

Recent forest fire activity has resulted in several consequences across different geographic locations where both natural and socioeconomic conditions have promoted a favorable context for what has happened in recent years in a number of countries, including Portugal. As a result, it would be interesting to examine the implications of forest fire activity in terms of the socioeconomic dynamics and performance of the agroforestry sectors in the context of those verified in the Portuguese municipalities. For this purpose, data from Statistics on Portugal was considered for output and employment from the business sector related to agricultural and forestry activities, which were disaggregated at the municipality level, for the period 2008–2015. Data for the burnt area was also considered in order to assess the impact of forest fires. The data was analyzed using econometric models in panel data based on the Keynesian (Kaldor laws) and convergence (conditional approaches) theories. The results from the Keynesian approaches show that there are signs of increasing returns to scale in the Portuguese agroforestry sectors, where the burnt area increased employment growth in agricultural activities and decreased employment in the forestry sector. Forest fires seem to create favorable conditions for agricultural employment in Portuguese municipalities and the inverse occurs for forestry employment. Additionally, some signs of convergence were identified between Portuguese municipalities for agroforestry output and employment, as well for the burnt areas. However, signs of divergence (increasing returns to scale) from the Keynesian models seem to be stronger. On the other hand, the evidence of beta convergence for the burnt areas are stronger than those verified for other variables, showing that the impacts from forest fires are more transversal across the whole country (however not enough to have sigma convergence).

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