Forest fires are one of the main disturbances affecting carbon sequestration of European forests and also leading to loss of life. Although it is generally recognized that the occurrence of forest fires in Europe is due mainly to causes of an anthropogenic nature, year to year fire risk is also linked to weather conditions. The projected decrease in summer precipitation in southern Europe and the increase in the frequency of summer droughts will probably induce greater risks of forest fires, ultimately resulting in strong impacts on natural resources and ecosystem stability, with consequent direct and indirect economic losses. Active forest and fire management practices can counteract the impacts of a changing climate to some extent.
Figure 1 - Map of carbon losses related to forest fires in Europe for June-August 2002 and 2003. Maps were obtained using the Community Land Model (CLM) 4.0. Website: http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/tss/clm/
This case study will focus on assessment of the forest fire risk in Europe, the regional release of CO2 as consequence of forest fires, and changes in spatial pattern of fire risk level (e.g. which areas that currently have low fire risk will move into a high risk category) with respect to a range of climate change scenarios. Potential adaptation options (e.g restoration, early forest fire detection systems, better allocation of firefighting resources, prescribed burning, etc.) will be proposed and discussed with relevant stakeholders.