IPCC alerts on forest fires’ impacts

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the second part of the 6th assessment report on February 28, 2022. This report looks notably at the possible future influence of climate change on forest fires and fires’ potential consequences for ecosystems, landscapes and local communities. 

A Borrowed Planet by Alisa Singer

A Borrowed Planet by Alisa Singer

Various causes for the predicted increase in fires ​

The global rise in temperature will influence the probability of extreme fires scientist remind. With 4ºC warming by 2100, wildfire frequency is projected to have a net increase of about 30% (medium confidence). 

Yet, the IPCC report also underlines that all fires are not directly linked to the rise of the temperatures. Many are caused by land abandonment, reforestation, changes in vegetation or land management practices, which have exerted more influence on forest fires than climate change in the past. 

The wildfire event that occurred in Portugal in 2017 contributes to demonstrate that wildfires are due to many factors, including the global warming. Indeed, this country is a very high-risk area where 2017 was one of the most violent fire in the last 40 years. IPCC researchers observe that in the Mediterranean zone, fire suppression, fire prevention, agricultural abandonment, and reforestation overall exerted even stronger influences on burned area than climate. 

©Verónica Catarino. Escola Nacional de Bombeiros. 

Severe consequences for the resilience of ecosystems, communities and landscapes

The IPCC’s projections predict that episodes of extreme events will be longer and more severe in the future, especially because of the pronounced droughts, which endangers the eco-systems and could accelerate their possible loss of resilience and recovery capacity. These fires will then affect human life and property on land. 

Other consequences of fires include their impact on landscapes which are part of the cultural and natural heritage of territories. In Chile, where one of FIRE-RES’ Livings Labs will be located, scientists consider that landscapes’ scenic beauty could be reduced by 18% to 28% by 2050. 

Boosting landscape and communities’ resilience with FIRE-RES

The new IPCC report therefore stresses the urgent need to better adapt to such event. For this reason, it is necessary to develop solutions to reduce the impact and maximise the benefits of forest fires on ecosystems.  

FIRE-RES aims to develop this integrated fire management approach in order to make landscapes and communities more resilient to such Extreme Wildfire Events. Partners will notably develop 34 innovations within 11 Living Labs in Europe and beyond. Based on a better understanding of Extreme Wildfire Events’ trends and behaviour, these innovations will intervene to ameliorate management of emergency and rescue services, as well as to foster the landscape and economic resilience of territories, and the governance and risk communication at all stages of Extreme Wildfire Events. 

Author: Blandine Camus (Euromontana)