Root causes of forest fires must be urgently addressed


Each summer we hear terrible news about forest fires from world fire prone areas, a trend that has continued this year with the tragic news from Portugal, France and the USA, among others. Unfortunately, more are expected to come. It is clear that the urgency lies with combating the fires and providing help to local communities, but once the crisis is past, policy makers need to put forward science-informed policies to address the root causes of forest fires. In a new video, the European Forest Institute (EFI) looks at the key factors of increased forest fire risk in the Mediterranean region and advocates for a new vision based on shifting the focus from reactive fire suppression to long-term proactive fire prevention and forest management at the landscape scale.

The risk of forest fires in the Mediterranean region is outpacing fire suppression capabilities, despite the billions of euros invested. Four key factors explain this:

  • the expansion of forests as a result of rural abandonment
  • the increase in fuel loads due to lack of forest management
  • the high number of fire ignitions due to socio-economic and land -use related factors
  • climate change and increasing weather risk conditions.

In the past, the focus has been on fire suppression, costing billions of euros each year, rather than on long-term strategies for fire prevention. Now, we need a new vision where the focus is shifted from fire suppression to fire prevention and forest management: managing our forests to be more resilient to climate change and addressing the socio-economic and land-use conflicts responsible for the high number of fire ignitions.

Developing the bioeconomy can help to ensure the economic sustainability of the new vision. The bioeconomy offers new economic opportunities to develop forest value chains around bioenergy, engineered wood products for sustainable construction, biomaterials based on cork and resin, or edible forest products. Developing a Mediterranean bioeconomy can provide the incentives and investments needed for forest owners to address the risk of forest fires, while managing and enhancing the resilience of forest landscapes and ensuring the provision of key ecosystem services, thus reducing the risk of catastrophic fires.

For more information, contact:

  • Marc Palahí, Director, European Forest Institute,, tel. +358 10 773 4342
  • Inazio Martinez de Arano, Head of EFI Mediterranean Regional Office,, tel. +34 93 515 3211
  • Alexander Held, Senior Expert, European Forest Institute,, tel. +49 7633 9233 868

Additional information:

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EFIMED is the Mediterranean Facility of the European Forest Institute. Based in Barcelona, Spain, it was launched in 2007.