Forest fires and adaptation options in Europe

Research addressed the assessment of adaptation options to forest fires in Europe under projected climate change - a pioneering attempt to quantify impacts of reactive and preventive adaptation strategies within one modeling framework at a regional scale.

Forest fires © naumoid | iStock

Forest fires

In two studies [1], [2] burned area and carbon emissions from fires during the course of the 21st century, were shown to have increased in Europe, particularly in the Mediterranean basins, the Balkans, and Eastern Europe.

However, the projected increase is lower than in other studies that did not fully account for the effect of climate on ecosystem functioning.

It was demonstrated that the lower sensitivity of burned area and carbon emissions to climate change is related to the predicted reduction of net primary productivity, which is identified as the most important determinant of fire activity in the Mediterranean region after anthropogenic interaction.

This behavior, consistent with the intermediate fire-productivity hypothesis, limits the sensitivity of future burned area and carbon emissions from fires on climate change, providing more conservative estimates of future fire patterns. It also demonstrates the importance of coupling fire simulation with a climate driven ecosystem productivity model. 

Figure 1. Scatter plots of yearly burned areas (SFM modelled vs. reported, and GFED vs. EFFIS) in hectares on a log.

Figure 2

Figure 2. Projected impacts and effect of fuel removal (prescribed burnings) on burned areas (in thousands of hectares) as assessed by SFMMRI, SFMCNRM, and SFMCSIRO models (all calibrated using GFED) for European regions. Solid lines represent “no adaptation” scenario, dashed lines – prescribed burnings (PB).

Figure 3. Spatially explicit projection of yearly burned areas (hectares per a 25x25 km pixel) estimated by SFMMRI model in 2090 with and without prescribed burnings.


[1] Khabarov N, Krasovskii A, Obersteiner M, Swart R, Dosio A, San-Miguel-Ayanz J, Durrant T, Camia A, Migliavacca M, Forest Fires and Adaptation Options in Europe, Manuscript submitted to Regional Environmental Change (revised version under review).
[2] Migliavacca M, Dosio A, Dosio A, Camia A, Hobourg R, Houston-Durrant T, Kaiser J, Khabarov N, Krasovskii A, Marcolla B, San Miguel-Ayanz J, Ward D, Cescatti A (2013). Modeling biomass burning and related carbon emissions during the 21st century in Europe, Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 118, 1732–1747, doi:10.1002/2013JG002444.


Institute for Environment and Sustainability,Joint Research Centre, European Commission, Ispra, Italy.

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Last edited: 22 May 2014


Nikolay Khabarov

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Ecosystems Services and Management

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