Bioeconomy as a long-term model for fighting forest fires

Given the pressing climate changes in the Mediterranean region, EFI's approach to tackling forest fires is to advocate the development of a bioeconomy that changes the way forests are perceived, valued and managed.

Fire extinguishing operations in the area of Ribera d'Ebre, in Catalonia (Spain) during the last days of June 2019. Photo: EFE

Hundreds of firefighters were fighting forest fires last year in southern Catalonia, Spain, as temperatures rose to 40 degrees Celsius and above across Europe. Authorities and experts agreed that those fires were the worst in the region in 20 years. In 2019, much of Europe experienced extreme heat and countries such as Germany, France, Portugal and Poland recorded the highest temperatures in their history in June.

In the case of Southern Europe, the Mediterranean basin is a global wildfire hotspot and the threat of wildfires to forests and society is expected to increase with climate change. The European Forest Institute (EFI) looks at the key factors of increased forest fire risk, particularly in the Mediterranean region but also across Europe, 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.

Researchers at EFI envision bioeconomy as a new economic opportunity to develop forest value chains around bioenergy, wood engineered products for sustainable construction, biomaterials based on cork and resin, or edible forest products. To move towards this proposed model, it is necessary to provide the necessary incentives and investments for forest owners to cope with the risk of catastrophic fires while managing forest landscapes and ensuring the provision of key ecosystem services.

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