United We Stand
Medforval against forest fires
29 October 2020
Most countries in the Mediterranean basin are facing the same emergency regarding rural fires. With conditions being increasingly favourable for fire crises, the resulting environmental and economic damage pose a severe risk to people and nature. Exacerbated by climate change and changes in land use and urbanization, the most recent megafires have shown how the landscape, forests, current fire fighting systems and society as a whole are simply not prepared. A report, coordinated by WWF Spain (with WWF France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Turkey), analyses the causes of these fires in the northern Mediterranean and considers potential solutions, offering cross-border proposals to address this shared problem. The only effective strategy is to design a real prevention system, making the territory less hazardous and more resilient to climate change.
Medforval sites were also affected by forest fires this summer, caused predominantly by people’s lack of responsibility but also deliberately lit, as site staff reported: “Forest fires occur because of reckless people and picnicking activities; while we encourage ecotourism people and visitors do not feel responsible for their actions.”, “Fires here are all of anthropogenic origin… malicious or negligent…”. However, with the engagement and commitment of volunteers from a number of local communities they were able to fight the fires and avoid more extensive loss.
In general, in Iberia, megafires occur as a result of fuel accumulation in huge areas after abandonment of traditional agriculture and livestock husbandry. An excellent example of the positive potential of participatory action and social innovation arose following a severe megafire event in 2015 in Sierra de Gata-Hurdes, a Spanish area in Extremadura, close to the Portuguese border. An innovative initiative – the Mosaico Project – proposed the design of a fire-smart, mosaic landscape based on new agropastoral practices in dense forests, and forest practices reducing stand density and thus fire risk. The participatory process was stimulated through the project website, extension services, workshops, personal interviews, and opinion surveys, with outstanding results. This experience is among the Forest and Landscape Restoration practices in the Mediterranean being collected by Medforval, Istituto Oikos and ACS.
For more information: Isabella Vannucchi, Istituto Oikos isabella.vannucchi@istituto-
Photo: © AYKUT İNCE / OGM, TURKEY