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Towards a comprehensive wildfire management strategy for Mediterranean areas: Framework development and implementation in Catalonia, Spain
- Alcasena, Fermín J., Ager, Alan A., Bailey, John D., Pineda, Nicolau, Vega-García, Cristina
- Journal of environmental management 2019 v.231 pp. 303-320
- ecosystems, fire regime, fire suppression, forests, fuels, fuels (fire ecology), humans, land use, landscapes, lightning, planning, simulation models, transportation, wildfires, wildland fire management, wildland-urban interface, Mediterranean region, Southern European region, Spain
- Southern European countries rely largely on fire suppression and ignition prevention to manage a growing wildfire problem. We explored a more wholistic, long-term approach based on priority maps for the implementation of diverse management options aimed at creating fire resilient landscapes, restoring cultural fire regimes, facilitating safe and efficient fire response, and creating fire-adapted communities. To illustrate this new comprehensive strategy for fire-prone Mediterranean areas, we developed and implemented the framework in Catalonia (northeastern Spain). We first used advanced simulation modeling methods to assess various wildfire exposure metrics across spatially changing fire-regime conditions, and these outputs were then combined with land use maps and historical fire occurrence data to prioritize different fuel and fire management options at the municipality level. Priority sites for fuel management programs concentrated in the central and northeastern high-hazard forestlands. The suitable areas for reintroducing fires in natural ecosystems located in scattered municipalities with ample lightning ignitions and minimal human presence. Priority areas for ignition prevention programs were mapped to populated coastal municipalities and main transportation corridors. Landscapes where fire suppression is the principal long-term strategy concentrated in agricultural plains with a high density of ignitions. Localized programs to build defensible space and improve self-protection on communities could be emphasized in the coastal wildland-urban interface and inner intermix areas from Barcelona and Gerona. We discuss how the results of this study can facilitate collaborative landscape planning and identify the constraints that prevent a longer term and more effective solution to better coexist with fire in southern European regions.