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Category: Fire management

Waldbrände – Wenn der Klimawandel Mensch und Natur bedroht

Waldbrandexperte Alexander Held im Gespräch mit G’Scheitholz! über Waldbrand, Prävention und Bekämpfung

Waldbrände prägen seit Jahrhunderten die mediterranen Landschaften in Südeuropa. Aber auch in Mitteleuropa werden Waldbrände immer häufiger und riskanter. Sowohl Klimawandel als auch Trends in der Landnutzung und Landschaftveränderungen führen weltweit zu extremer Feueraktivität und stellen die verschiedenen Regionen vor neue Herausforderungen.

Die Prävention von Waldbränden müsste noch mehr zur Zielsetzung werden, meint Waldbrandexperte Alexander Held vom European Forest Insitute im Gespräch mit dem österreichischen Klimaschutz-podcast G’Scheitholz!. Zwar können wir nicht alle Feuer verhindern, doch eine gute Prävention kann dafür sorgen, dass die Feuer, die auftreten, beherrschbar bleiben für die Feuerwehr. Das bedeutet beispielsweise die Brandlast, also die Menge an Brennmaterial, an Waldwegen zu reduzieren und mehr Pufferzonen zu schaffen.

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Wildfire science enters the Spanish Congress 

The work of Oficina C brings science to policymaking in Spain 

In 2019, the church of Notre Dame burnt down. Citizens of Hong Kong took the streets to protest for a better democracy. Students protested against inequality in Chile. The Amazon burned (and the hashtag #PrayforAmazonas went viral). Theresa May resigned as prime minister of the UK, and Simone Biles became the gymnast with the most medals in the history of world championships. Anyone slightly following the news probably remembers most of these events. 

However, in this blogpost I will talk about something else that happened in 2019, in this case in Spain, that went unheard of for most. It was the year when the Spanish Congress approved the creation of the Office for Science and Technology (Oficina C), in order to support a scientifically informed debate in the lower House. And you may wonder why is this relevant at all. It is relevant, because we live in the era of the “post-truth”. An era when fake-news appear on a daily basis, and where online disinformation is a matter of public concern. Making scientific findings accessible for policymakers has always been relevant, but now we need to facilitate evidence-based discussions more than ever.  

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Preventing megafires and land abandonment in the Mediterranean

The combination of climate change and land abandonment is creating the perfect conditions for forest megafires in the Mediterranean. Higher temperatures, erratic rainfall and longer droughts are becoming increasingly commonplace, as well as claims that megafires “are here to stay”. Still, not all hope is lost. Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) can help prevent fire disasters by reducing the amount of flammable biomass that accumulates in forests, among other adaptation measures.

The INFORMA project’s case study in the Segre-Rialb basin, Spain, is an example of an area that has suffered decades of continuous rural exodus and decurrent lack of forest management. There, the project will equip forest practitioners with insights on how to adapt to increased climate variability while ensuring the provision of important ecosystem services such as water quality and quantity, wood and non-wood forest products, recreation, and biodiversity conservation.

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Fuelling the Forest Fire Policy – From the groundwork to an international audience

It cannot be stressed enough: More than 100 participants from 22 countries gathered in the Polish forest to attend the SNEP (Association of Independent Firefighting…

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Training argumentation and critical thinking skills in a role-play about forests

How can students develop skills such as argumentation and critical thinking? The Umeå University is investigating the topic using learning materials around forest use and forest protection as part of the MULTIPLIERS project

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Forest fires, field recorders, and four females 

It is Monday, 6 am. My Colleague Patricia and I (working for Land Life Company) are leaving our office in Burgos heading to Ribera de Folgoso (León), where our SUPERB colleagues from CESEFOR Judit and Rocio are waiting for us. Today we will accompany them to collect and place again field recorders in the plots of our Spanish SUPERB demo in Castilla/León. 

Within the SUPERB project, we have 12 Demo-areas across Europe. In our Spanish demo we amongst other activities investigate degraded areas after a recent wildfire, and look at different states of forest recovery. In this regard, the aim of the field recorders is to identify different bird and bat species present across all these different recovery levels. Birds and bats play a very important role in many habitats as pollinators, insect controllers, dispersers, “reforesters” by regurgitating, defecating, or burying seeds, and they help the tree to “awake” the seed as it passes through their digestive system. Finally, they are of course indicators of biodiversity. Thus, their presence, or absence, can tell us a lot about the state of our forest.  

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‘Europe’s forests increasingly under pressure from climate-driven disturbances 

Every summer we see in the news flames burning down trees and houses, firefighters pouring water on mountain sides. In the winter we see massive windstorms blowing off entire forest landscapes. We read about very small insects that kill millions and millions of trees in few years. 

In parallel, we are also observing trees becoming political in Europe. Placed at the core of many policy documents and climatic pledges, forests and their climate mitigation potential are being increasingly recognised as key in the critical achievement of European climate and biodiversity targets, as well as for the many other services they provide to society.  

Media and policy attention underline that we urgently need more knowledge and sound research results on how disturbances develop, how they impact European forests and the so-called “ecosystem services” they provide, and how to respond to the seemingly increasing forest disturbance risks. A team of forest researchers from Wageningen University, the European Forest Institute and numerous research institutes across Europe investigated forest disturbances over the past 70 years and can now provide ground-breaking results in the paper “Significant increase in natural disturbance impacts on European forests since 1950” published in the journal “Global Change Biology”. 

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Let’s talk fire: How to move Integrated Fire Management forward?

The last training of the Pyrolife project for its 15 Early-Stage Researchers (ESRs) took place on the 19th-30th of September in the Netherlands. Pyrolife is an Innovative Training Network funded under the Marie Curie Programme (MSCA-ITN) which supports the PhD training and research of 15 candidates working on wildfire-related issues across different European countries, covering a wide array of disciplines from engineering to human geography and sociology.

The whole Pyrolife training program is designed and anchored upon the recognition of the urgent need for change in the way our (highly heterogeneous) societies manage, govern and relate to wildfires across the globe. The project takes up the imperative of building landscape resilience through a better understanding of fire drivers, risk, and impacts, as well as creative approaches to risk reduction that are sustainable in the long term.

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Rise from the ashes

by Bas Lerink, supported by Judit Torres and Iñigo Oleagordia Montaña

The sun peaks over the roof of Cathedral Santa Maria as I make my way downtown the city of León. The huge stained-glass windows light up in red and yellow, as a promise for a hot day. I am meeting our Spanish SUPERB colleagues in their CESEFOR office, to catch up with recent activities in our SUPERB demonstration site. It is great to meet again with the demo representatives Judit Torres (CESEFOR) and Iñigo Oleagordia Montaña (Junta CyL) and to get to know Rafael, the forest manager of the El Bierzo sites. A lot has happened since we last met, so we take the time to discuss the events of the past weeks.

The Castilla y León demo gives a fascinating insight in the relationship between men and bear. The aim of the demo is to improve the habitat of the brown bear, while simultaneously engaging the rural population. If not challenging enough, there is always the lurking danger of forest fires in the region. Two weeks ago, Judit organised the demo’s stakeholder workshop, uniting friend, and foe of the bear. They discussed the forest restoration measures planned by the local partners, with room for adjustments. The presence of the brown bear can incidentally trouble activities of the local population, especially for beekeepers. But they already found a solution by subsidising e.g. electric fencing around the beehives, to fend off curious bears with a sweet tooth. In the coming weeks, the workplan will be finalised, with detailed descriptions of the restoration measures on specific sites, and I am already curious to read them.

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