Extreme wildfire events: addressing the challenges faced by national governance and management systems across Europe

16:15 Wednesday 29 May




Nicolas Faivre (Belgium) 1; Maddalena Dali (Belgium) 2; Karolina Kalinowska (Belgium) 3; Markus Leitner (Austria) 4; José Manuel Moreno (Spain) 5; Francisco Manuel Cardoso De Castro Rego (Portugal) 6

1 - European Commission DG Research and Innovation; 2 - European Commission DG CLIMA; 3 - European Commission DG ECHO; 4 - Umweltbundesamt GmbH; 5 - University of Castilla La Mancha; 6 - Universidade Técnica de Lisboa - Instituto Superior de Agronomia

Throughout 2017, a series of wildfires swept through southern European countries, spreading also to northern Europe in 2018. These wildfires incurred extraordinary socioeconomic impacts in terms of both loss of human lives and economic damage. Such extreme wildfire events that experts refer to as ‘megafires’ originate from the cumulative effects of global warming, the expansion of fire-prone landscapes, and population shifts into and out of wildland and rural settings. This new wildfire context calls for an integrated fire management approach which tackles the socio-economic, climate and environmental roots of mega-fires through more balanced landscape management strategies that account for prevention, education, preparedness, suppression and post-fire recovery aspects. The session aims at taking stock of innovative solutions and successful case studies across Europe that demonstrate how to prevent and recover from extreme wildfire events. Not least, it should allow for an exchange between the key actors and partners to address the barriers in governance and management, which often impede an integrated forest fire management strategy.

Target audience

This session targets the main actors involved in forest and forest fire management in Europe and internationally (scientists, practitioners, civil society, and policy makers) at the relevant scales (local, regional, national). It should capitalize on existing know-how, understanding and lessons learned from preventing, fighting and restoring from mega-fires.

Proposed format for the session (1 hour and 45minutes)

The session will be conducted in three blocks.

Introductory video from EFI while audience takes seat

  1. Introduction and stocktaking (10min) – state of play in EU forest fire management and governance – Lessons learned from EU-funded research on Forest Fires.
  2. Presentations (45min)

What is needed? Concrete examples of successful fire management and sustainable land management approaches

The speakers will share lessons learned and showcase case studies that highlight the potential of integrated fire management to reduce wildfire risk, secure the provision of ecosystem services, mobilize biomass for energy production, and enhance synergies between short- to mid-term climate change mitigation objectives, disaster risk management and long-term adaptation needs. Examples should be extracted from across Europe and illustrate applications of integrated fire management in various socio-economic and environmental contexts.

  • Video from SIC Channel (2017 fires in Portugal) – changing of room set-up
  1. Round table opened for audience participation (50min). Moderated by Ms Carla Castelo (PT) SIC Channel journalist.

How to design an integrated and effective fire management strategy? Minimising the trade-offs and maximising the benefits of forest uses while preventing large fires. The round table will focus on the Portuguese experience to highlight the improvements in fire policies and management, building on the case of the 2017 fires.

  • The fire exclusion policies showed their limits towards the current fire problem in the European countries. What are the most effective preventive or restorative approaches to minimize fire risk in a context of increasing probabilities of megafires? How can relevant public and private actors co-develop new protocols and guidance adapted to the local and regional needs?

The recommendations made should be applicable to non-Mediterranean contexts, in particular Eastern and Northern European countries.

  • The panellists will explore the socio-economic and ecological dimensions of an integrated fire management strategy, discussing which solutions exist that enhance ecosystem services, people safety and well-being while reducing fire risk?
  • A third objective of the round table is to describe the dynamic adaptation process that leads to sustainable forest management, building on the cases presented earlier. In particular, the panellists will discuss how the trends in changing climate and land use are reflected in current approaches and practices. Which governance mechanisms, legislation or socio-economic incentives are needed to facilitate the adaptation process?

Contributing Authors abstracts

  • Prof. Francisco Castro-Rego, Instituto Superior de Agronomia – Universidade Técnica de Lisboa
  • M. Inazio Martinez de Arano (ES) European Forest Institute
  • M. Marc Castellnou (ES), Fire Service of Catalunya
  • M. Athanasios Sfetsos (GR), Demokritos
  • M. Peter Moore (AUS) FAO-Forestry Department
  • Prof. Fantina Tedim (PT) University of Porto
  • Ms Inês Vieira (PT) – University of Lisbon
  • M. Antonio Soares (PT) – National Association of Rural Owners