The climate crisis is heating up forest fires in Europe. They are also increasingly occurring in northern regions, where they were previously rare in this severe form, researchers from the international FirEUrisk project have explained.
“Climate change is also causing extreme events in Germany to become more severe,” says Kirsten Thonicke, a forest fire expert at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research who is working on the project. “In a single forest fire, as much suddenly burns as would otherwise burn in many forest fires throughout the year. In Germany, vegetation is not adapted to the increasing frequency and intensity of forest fires, and the current fires are bad for people and nature.”
The FirEUrisk project is investigating fire risk mitigation scenarios across the continent to capitalize on experiences from southern European countries. Together with 38 partner institutions from 19 countries, PIK is using FirEUrisk to develop a science-based strategy for managing, monitoring and analyzing large forest fires in Europe. The project, funded by the European Union, brings together researchers, practitioners, policy makers and citizens to investigate the vulnerability and resilience of communities and countries to forest fires in Northern and Central Europe and the Mediterranean region. The overall goal of the project is to adapt fire management strategies to expected climatic and socio-economic changes.
“We need to prepare for fires occurring in regions where they have not occurred before, and for them to become more severe,” explains FirEUrisk coordinator Domingos Xavier Viegas of the University of Coimbra, Portugal. Based on the experience of Mediterranean countries, Viegas says, “FirEUrisk is developing guidelines, policies and recommendations that can be adopted by Central and Northern European countries.”