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EU publishes science-policy report on landscape fire risk management

Posted on 3rd January 2019 at 12:27pm

A new science-policy report on landscape fire risk management in Europe has been published by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD). Forest Fires – Sparking FireSmart Policies in the EU presents a critical review of  EU-funded research on forest fires and explores policy adaptation to face the new challenges imposed by the threat of extreme landscape fire events.

Larger and more damaging landscape fires are challenging the suppression capacities of many protection programmes across Europe (Louis Louro/123rf)

Such fires constitute a serious and increasing threat throughout Europe, particularly in Greece, Spain, France, Italy and Portugal. This was underlined, with tragic results, in 2018 in Greece and in 2017 in Portugal.

Despite a decreasing trend in the number of fires and areas burned that has been observed in some countries since the 1980s, larger and more damaging fires are challenging the suppression capacities of many protection programmes across Europe. This trend is the result of unbalanced policies that can be effective in fire suppression in normal weather conditions, but which are insufficient to prevent extreme events.

The EU has been funding research in this field over the last two decades, through its Framework Programmes and other funding instruments. About 60 research projects, from large-scale integrated projects to more traditional projects or Marie Skłodowska-Curie individual fellowships, received a total EU contribution of more than EUR 100 million. Based on a critical scientific review of these EU research projects, the new report identifies the main current policy challenges related to forest fire risk management and governance, which can be further addressed by the relevant EU and national policies.

The report proposes a set of policy recommendations, which follows the logical sequence of the Integrated Fire Management (IFM) cycle. The key policy recommendations proposed include:

  • Support cross-sectoral and multilevel governance to leverage the impact of public policies on wildfire risk management.
  • Reinforce the EU’s disaster response capacity to improve the protection of EU EU citizens.Support proactive prevention operations adapted to local socio-economic and environmental contexts.
  • Integrate fire ecology principles into fire management strategies and policies to support sustainable forest management.
  • Improve preparedness through FireSmart governance systems empowered by local communities.

The work of DG RTD in landscape fire research and innovation has implications for various Commission policies and initiatives relating to forest fire risk management. In parallel with this report, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) produces an annual report of forest fires in Europe, providing a detailed analysis of the previous fire season, including country specific reports, based on data from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS), combined with statistics and information from EU member states and neighbouring countries.

Furthermore, a new pilot website, based on the new report, is currently being prepared for the Disaster Risk Management Knowledge Centre (DRMKC), in order to disseminate science-based, targeted and digested information to the different stakeholders involved in landscape fire risk management, and to promote the concept of integrated disaster risk management among the disaster risk reduction community. The new website is expected to be fully operational in 2019. Download the report here 

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