The month of August has yet to finish and 600,731 hectares have currently been lost in European countries since the start of the summer season in 2022, the second most damage since 2006 when fire damage numbers began being kept. In comparison 2017, the worst year on record, 987,844 hectares were destroyed by fires. Once rare in parts of Northern and Central-Eastern Europe, forest fires have now become more frequent and longer lasting in most European countries with disastrous consequences.
Witness water rationing in Belgium, explosions of hidden ordnance from World War 1 battlefields in Slovenia or evacuations of entire towns in France. Scientists argue this is only the beginning of what is to occur yearly, as global average temperatures begin to rise by more than 1.5C due to climate change.
Preventing, not suppressing forest fires
If Europe is to slow down the effects of climate change, it is imperative to move away from a limited reactive approach of fire suppression to a planned approach of fire prevention. Fire suppression efforts have shown their limits in extreme wildfire events. A new shift to effective prevention measures is essential for adapting to the new wildfire context that now targets all EU countries.
The European Commission’s new forest strategy seeks just that. It is one of the flagship initiatives of the European Green Deal and builds on the EU biodiversity strategy for 2030. The forestry strategy consists of concrete actions to improve the quantity and quality of EU forests and strengthen their protection, restoration and resilience. It aims to adapt Europe’s forests to the new conditions, weather extremes and high uncertainty brought about by climate change.
As exemplified in the following EU-funded projects managed by the European Research Executive Agency, the forest strategy focuses on the following; strategic forest monitoring, reporting and data collection, developing a research and innovation agenda on forestry knowledge, and implementing an inclusive EU forest governance framework.
EU-Australia wildfire cooperation
Every year in the EU and Australia, thousands of square miles of forests and other lands burn due to wildfires. Both EU and Australian governments are aware of how crucial it is to improve wildfires’ management and have come to together to work on the following Geospatial based Environment for Optimisation Systems Addressing Fire Emergencies (GEO SAFE) project. The project aims at creating a network enabling the two continents to exchange knowledge, ideas and experiences. Knowledge exchange via satellite and remote sensors data will expand the development of innovative methods and tools, enabling an integrated decision support system to maximise resources for efficiently dealing with future wildfires. The project has collected all their lessons on fire and made them available.
Find out more about GEO-SAFE
Crowdsourced data for managing forest fires
In order to support societies becoming more resilient when acting against forests fires, the SAFERS project (‘Structured Approaches for Forest Fire Emergencies in Resilient Societies’) will create an open and integrated platform featuring a forest fire decision support system. The platform will use information from different sources: earth observations from Copernicus and GEOSS (Global Earth Observation Systems of Systems), fire sensors in forests, topographic data, weather forecasts and even crowdsourced data from social media. Crowdsourcing is a key driver to improving a rapid, real time ready response system to the detection, prevention and management of forest fires, as any citizen or first responder can work together to provide situational in-field information.
Find out more about SAFERS
Accelerating pan-European adaptation to extreme wildfire events
Extreme wildfire events (EWE) are becoming a major environmental, economic and social threat in Europe. As the limits of fire suppression-centred strategies become evident, practitioners, researchers and policymakers increasingly recognise the need to develop novel approaches that shift emphasis to the root causes and impacts of EWE. This requires moving towards more preventative landscape and community management for greater resilience. The EU-funded FIRE-RES project builds upon its predecessor, the FirEUrisk project, and is designed to promote the implementation of a more holistic fire management approach. By integrating research, technology, civil protection, policy and governance spheres related to wildfires, the project will generate new knowledge about sustainable integrated fire management models.
Find out more about FIRE-RES
- Publication date
- 9 August 2022
- European Research Executive Agency