Europe’s nature under threat as world suffers worst year on record for forest fires
The Joint Research Centre of the Commission presented the 20th edition of its Annual Report on Forest Fires in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, covering 2019. In what was the worst-ever year for forest fires around the world in recent history, over 400,000 hectares (ha) of Europe’s natural land was burnt and a record high number of nature protection areas were affected by wildfires. According to the findings of the report, climate change continued to affect the length and intensity of fire danger in Europe. By March, before the ‘fire season’ in most countries, the EU’s total burnt area was already above the annual average of the last 12 years. However, thanks to better preparedness and more efficient response, the 2019 season was one of the best ever in terms of preventing accidents and loss of life.
Key findings of the report
- National reporting from countries showed that Spain, Portugal and Poland recorded the highest number of fires in EU countries in 2019;
- Romania (73 444 ha burnt area) was the country with the greatest damage to its protected areas in 2019, according to the European Forest Fires Information System (EFFIS);
- Wildfires heavily affected Europe’s ‘Natura 2000‘ protected areas: With 159,585 ha burnt in 2019, nearly half of the total burnt area in the EU occurred within these key biodiversity zones;
- The 2019 season was, however, one of the best in terms of preventing accidents and loss of life: Only three casualties occurred due to wildfires in the countries included in the 2019 report.
The Copernicus Emergency Management Service rapid mapping was activated 35 times to help fight forest fires in 2019, the most activations of any year so far.
The Biodiversity strategy proposed in May as part of the European Green Deal foresees actions to improve the health of European forests and strengthen our resilience to forest fires, and includes the target of planting at least 3 billion trees by 2030.
- Report Forest Fires in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa 2019
- Forest fires
- European Forest Fire Information System