EDJNet unravels Europe’s Fire Map Amid Rural Exodus and Climate Challenges

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Depopulation and climate change are reshaping Europe’s fire landscape, with rural abandonment leaving vast areas vulnerable. Fires are increasing, affecting regions that experienced significant land use changes. The latest piece from the European Data Journalism Network’s transnational journalistic investigation of wildfires highlights the consequences of rural exodus and neglect, posing challenges for firefighting strategies and contributing to an evolving fire map in Europe.

The dynamic fire map of Europe is intricately woven with the threads of depopulation, climate change, and transforming land use. The article by Abel Gil, also published on El Orden Mundial, inquires about the discernible shift in fire patterns, detectable by the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) satellites, which paints a vivid tableau of Europe’s evolving landscape. Across Europe, rural exodus and the climate crisis have prompted the abandonment of vast rural areas, leaving millions of hectares susceptible to wildfires. Notably, recent fire outbreaks in Castellón’s municipalities, such as Benicarló, Nules, and Burriana, underscore the broader trend of neglected landscapes fueling blazes.

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The European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) observes a rising number of large fires visible via satellite sensors, with forest fires now predominant in regions previously untouched. Depopulation emerges as the primary catalyst for this transformation, as abandoned lands gradually revert to their natural state, amplifying the fire risk. Additionally, tourism and real estate speculation are contributing to land abandonment, exacerbating the vulnerability of these territories to fires. In conclusion, the urgency for firefighting teams to adapt to the changing dynamics and diverse environments rises, as Europe grapples with an extended fire season and an altered landscape influenced by depopulation and climate change. You can read the full article by Abel Gil here and discover more about the Wildfires in Europe investigation here.

Author: Beatrice Bellavia (Euromontana).