EFI Bonn’s fire risks expert joins science-media partnership

EFI Bonn’s fire risks senior expert Alexander Held was selected as a mentor for the Climate Change Immersive Story Accelerator Lookout360°, a new 6-month media support programme for journalists and producers who are eager to get started with immersive stories on climate change. The programme is a pilot project of the recently launched science-media initiative The Lookout Station initiated by European Forest Institute and the Global Editors Network.

Together with Alan Rusbridger, former editor-in-chief of Guardian News & Media
and Dr. John M. Reilly, Co-Director of MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, and other mentors, Alexander Held will support a group of 10 journalists by providing his expertise in forest fires, silviculture and deer management.

More information on the programme, trainers and mentors here.

No fire without smoke – forest fires deteriorate air quality

Fire is not only a threat to forests and livelihoods in the rural areas. As the forest fire season takes on entirely new dimensions by getting longer and more intense, fire – and smoke related health hazards increase, warned an international study published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics and reported by PhysOrg.

Burning vegetation releases small particulates, that are dangerous even in small quantities. According to the study, in countries with effective measures to reduce air pollution, wildfire emissions are not causing the average annual levels of small particles to surpass the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended thresholds. However, emissions from fires do increase air pollution severely, which in turn can have grave consequences for human health. According to WHO,  the range of health effects of the small particulates is broad, but are predominantly to the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. In principle, the longer the exposure to small particulates is, the more severe the impact on health is.

Tragically, it is estimated that more than 700 000 hectares of land have burned in 2017 alone. The data from European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) points out that the majority of fires were caused by human activities. Additionally dry conditions paved the way for small fires to turn into uncontrollable wildfires. Both conditions, on the bright side, indicate that there is potential for fire prevention.

Currently, air quality policies do not include wildfires and the emissions they cause. Additionally, up until this point there is no widely approved way to manage wildfires. In the light of the late megafires, there is an urgent need to collaborate on the international level to find the best approach to manage and prevent wildfires. For the sake of our forests and our health.

Read the entire news article here.

Tackling wildfires in Mediterranean forests

Catastrophic forest fires claimed lives this summer across the world, from California to Portugal and Spain. The Mediterranean basin is a global wildfire hotspot and the threat of wildfires to forests and society is expected to increase with climate change.

Scientists from the European Forest Institute (EFI) urge a shift in focus on how we tackle this problem, moving beyond the current emphasis on fire suppression. They argue that the bio-economy offers means to activate management and to demonstrate that forests are a valuable resource, as a smart and sustainable strategy to address the problem of wildfires.

In a new paper published in Forest Policy and Economics, the researchers consider the opportunities offered by a forest-based bio-economy alongside an improved recognition of the value of forests. They suggest a strategic policy shift in favour of fire prevention as part of an integrated forest management strategy, while calling for a shift in mind-set for society to recognise the various ways in which forests provide value.

A comprehensive guide to risk and crisis management

For those, who are interested in practical approaches to risk and crisis management – check out these publications (in German):

The Swiss federal institute for forest, snow and landscape (WSL) is providing a comprehensive collection of its publications, which provides information on risk and crisis management in forestry – Merkblatt für die Praxis. The papers are condensed versions of the institute’s research findings and translated into sets of practical guidelines. They are of interest to practitioners, to forest and environmental delegates as well as to lay persons.

Predicting forest risks and building up resilient societies

International Workshop by NetRiskWork in Solsona explored resilience and adaptive capacity of European forest landscapes by promoting knowledge exchange and networking

How do different natural disturbances affect forests; in what way do they interact and influence each other? What are the challenges for forests in times of climate change? How do natural disturbances affect society and what can we do to mitigate risks? To what extend are risks predictable, and how do we need to shape governance and communication to build up a resilient society?

These questions were discussed in the framework of the international and interdisciplinary workshop “Managing Forest Risks Towards Desaster Reduction: The Case of Wildfires, Storms, Floods and Avalanches and Their Interactions” in Solsona, Catalunya, organized by the project NetRiskWork (networking for the European Forest Risk Facility). The workshop took place from 3-6 October 2017.

Zahl der Waldbrände in Europa verdreifacht, sagt EFI-Experte

Immer öfter werden in Europa in Zukunft Waldbrände wüten, mehr und mehr Flächen werden von ihnen verschlungen, warnt Waldbrand-Experte Alexander Held vom European Forest Institute in einem Interview mit Euronews. Das betrifft auch Länder, in denen man es absolut nicht erwartet hätte. Die traditionelle Waldbrandsaison habe sich zudem verlängert, so Held.

Fighting catastrophic forest fires: a new vision

In this short video, the European Forest Institute (EFI) looks at the key factors of increased forest fire risk in the Mediterranean region and advocates for a new vision based on shifting the focus from reactive fire suppression to long-term proactive fire prevention and forest management at the landscape scale.