cover image: FOREST FIRES: causes and contributing factors in Europe


FOREST FIRES: causes and contributing factors in Europe

29 Feb 2008

The causes of forest fires in Portugal have been attributed to the depopulation of the interior of the country (leading to an increase of unattended shrublands) associated with the increase of fire prone species (especially pine and eucalyptus), and lack of forest management due to the small average holding size. [...] On the basis of this analysis, and on the lessons learned from Portugal and Greece, the report presents an overview of the main causes of forest fires and proposes some general conclusions and recommendations on how to tackle the increasingly serious problem of fires in European forests. [...] The dominant pine and oak species are fire-adapted species – they depend in part on fire to regenerate – however, the frequency and severity of the fires in the Mediterranean is one of the leading causes of forest degradation (EEA, 2007). [...] The fires of 2003 have been the worst in the past 27 years in terms of burnt area, and led to the destruction of about 425,000 hectares, causing the loss of 8.6% of the total Portuguese forest5. [...] In Portugal 21 people died in the forest fires of 2003, and 18 died in the fire of 2005.
environment climate change portugal sustainable forest management greece civil defence depopulation southern europe fire forest damage agriculture and rural development


Samuela Bassi, Marianne Kettunen (IEEP) Institute for European Environmental Policy London, United Kingdom

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