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Forest fires and adaptation options in Europe

Khabarov, Nikolay, Krasovskii, Andrey, Obersteiner, Michael, Swart, Rob, Dosio, Alessandro, San-Miguel-Ayanz, Jesús, Durrant, Tracy, Camia, Andrea, Migliavacca, Mirco
Regional environmental change 2016 v.16 no.1 pp. 21-30
algorithms, behavior change, climate change, climate models, databases, emissions, fire break, fire suppression, forest fires, fuels, fuels (fire ecology), information systems, probability, Europe
This paper presents a quantitative assessment of adaptation options in the context of forest fires in Europe under projected climate change. A standalone fire model (SFM) based on a state-of-the-art large-scale forest fire modelling algorithm is used to explore fuel removal through prescribed burnings and improved fire suppression as adaptation options. The climate change projections are provided by three climate models reflecting the SRES A2 scenario. The SFM’s modelled burned areas for selected test countries in Europe show satisfying agreement with observed data coming from two different sources (European Forest Fire Information System and Global Fire Emissions Database). Our estimation of the potential increase in burned areas in Europe under “no adaptation” scenario is about 200 % by 2090 (compared with 2000–2008). The application of prescribed burnings has the potential to keep that increase below 50 %. Improvements in fire suppression might reduce this impact even further, e.g. boosting the probability of putting out a fire within a day by 10 % would result in about a 30 % decrease in annual burned areas. By taking more adaptation options into consideration, such as using agricultural fields as fire breaks, behavioural changes, and long-term options, burned areas can be potentially reduced further than projected in our analysis.