2022 marked a devastating year for wildfires in the EU, with close to 900,000 hectares of land scorched, equivalent to the size of Corsica, according to a recent report by the Commission’s Joint Research Centre reveals that this year ranks as the second-worst in recorded history, with the most severe year being 2017, witnessing 1.3 million hectares of land burnt.
CLIMATE CHANGE INTENSIFIES WILDFIRE MENACE
The alarming surge in wildfires over the last three years continues to wreak havoc on the environment and economies of EU nations, claiming lives and causing substantial environmental destruction, said the report Forest Fires in Europe, Middle East and North Africa 2022. A staggering 96% of these fires stem from human activities and are exacerbated by heightened fire risks attributed to climate change.
IMPACT ON BIODIVERSITY AND PROTECTED AREAS
Natural 2000 sites, serving as vital biodiversity reserves for the EU, bore the brunt of approximately 43% of the total burnt area, marking the highest recorded devastation within these protected regions in the last decade.
UNVEILING WARNINGS OF CLIMATE CHANGE
The report serves as a forewarning of the implications of global warming as escalating temperatures and escalating droughts present heightened risks in European nations. While EU-initiated preventive measures and fire fighting efforts have curtailed casualties, there is an urgent need for all-encompassing preventive strategies targeting rural communities and urban areas close to natural landscapes.
2023: ONGOING WILDFIRE CRISIS
Current data for 2023 reveals that wildfires have already ravaged around 500,000 hectares of natural land in the EU. The year witnessed massive blazes, notably the largest single wildfire recorded in the EU in Alexandroupolis, Greece, consuming over 96,000 hectares.
CHALLENGES IN CONTAINMENT AND GLOBAL TRENDS
The report highlights the unprecedented challenge faced by fire fighting services due to the increasing frequency and intensity of wildfires, stretching from west to east and across various regions of Europe. These extreme fires not only affect Europe but are part of a global trend, posing monumental challenges in fire fighting strategies and aerial containment.
FOREST MONITORING LAW: A STEP TOWARDS COMPREHENSIVE FOREST KNOWLEDGE
In conjunction with the report, the Commission introduces a Forest Monitoring Law aimed at addressing informational gaps regarding European forests, aiming to establish an exhaustive knowledge base to tackle and understand the wildfire crisis.
EFFIS: A CRUCIAL INFORMATION HUB
EFFIS, spanning 43 EU and neighbouring countries, stands as a vital platform for collating and sharing information on wildfires. It not only provides comprehensive data on forest fires but also serves as a collaborative platform to exchange effective fire fighting and fire management practices.