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Adaptation option

Adaptation of fire management plans (2015)

Climate change has already increased fire risk in forests. Climate change scenarios for Mediterranean Europe foresee an increase in the number of years with high fire danger, an increase in the length of season with fire risk and an increase of extreme events during the fire season that could result in larger, more intense and more frequent fires. Despite a huge body of fire research in the Mediterranean Europe, knowledge on adaptive forest fire management under climate change is limited. The interactions of climate change with vegetation cover and fire regimes should be understood and appropriately considered in the planning and implementation of fire use, and it is, therefore, necessary to know the impacts of regional climate change on ecosystem properties and fire regimes to be able to adapt fire management plans and policies taking into account changes in fuel and vegetation type, burning conditions or additional fire risk due to climate change.

Fire management is intended as the use of fire to achieve land management and traditional use objectives, by keeping the safeguarding of life, property and resources through the prevention, detection, control, restriction and suppression of fire in forest and other vegetation in rural areas. Fire management plans are statements, for a specific area, of fire policy and prescribed action to prevent fires, protect people, property and forests from fire and to use fire to accomplish forest management and other land-use objectives. Any effective fire management programme must consider the ecology and fire history of the area. Fire management involves the strategic integration of several factors to support the development of Fire Management Plans: knowledge of fire regimes, probable fire effects, values at risk, level of forest protection required, cost of fire-related activities, and prescribed fire technology.

Fire management activities, then, range from prevention, early warning, detection, mobilization and suppression of unwanted and damaging fires, through appropriate use of natural or human caused fire in maintaining ecological values and integrity of certain ecosystems, to the use of fire to reduce the accumulation of natural fuel and residues from commercial or non-commercial activities and the rehabilitation of ecosystems damaged by or dependent on fire. Fire management actions can be applied to all types of forests and woodlands and to areas designated for production, conservation, cultural activities or as protected areas and reserves. Some sectors that already use fire as a tool to enhance output and facilitate land use are agriculture, forest resources management, and pastoral and wildlife management. Anyway, consideration should be given to using appropriate fire management actions that will not adversely impact surrounding areas, assets or sustainable livelihoods.

The main fire management actions are referred as Fuel Management (i.e. all methods of fuel treatment and alteration to reduce fire risk, protect community, and restore ecosystem) and Planned, or prescribed, Fires (i.e. the deliberate use of fire to meet specific management objectives). Planned fires are a very effective way to remove unwanted vegetation for a variety of objectives, but a critical issue of any planned burning programme is mitigating the effects of smoke. An effective smoke management programme is then necessary when prescribed fires are applied.

Other sustainable forest management practices are the establishment and maintenance of fire breaks, forest tracks, water supply points, the appropriate choice of tree species, fixed forest fire monitoring facilities and communication equipment to prevent catastrophic fire spread.

Additional Details
Reference information

Adaptation Details



IPCC categories

Institutional: Government policies and programmes, Social: Informational

Stakeholder participation

Successful fire management requires participatory approaches to leadership and management that are appropriately shared by public and private landholders, industries, the fire services, and communities of interest. A multistakeholder approach is needed to ensure a coordinated approach for fire management in areas where multiple organizations and stakeholders have responsibilities and interests in the fire programme.

Success and Limiting Factors

The effective implementation of fire management plans depends on the governments, international and non-governmental organizations, financial institutions, landowners and users, which should fully recognize the special circumstances and requirements of countries. Emphasis may be needed in technology transfer, education, training and scientific cooperation, and in enhancing abilities to strengthen fire management organizations and capabilities. The safety of the fire fighters must have the highest priority in the policies, procedures, plans and management philosophy of any agency or organization. So, proper safety equipment and training to each individual in fire suppression and prescribed burning operations are essential to success. The inappropriate use of fire at the wrong frequency or intensity will lead to a loss of plant species, a change or reduction in vegetation structure and, in some cases, a corresponding loss of animal species. In addition, a key issue for successful fire management under climate change is the adaptive capacity of the area, which depends not only on the available scientific and technical knowledge, but also on the social, economical, and political components associated with the implementation of the different adaptation options

Costs and Benefits

The development of fire management plan requires high investment costs since it is a long-term measure. However, some benefits for Countries who intends to develop management plan can be highlighted. The plan help in achieving specific features of human rights and livelihoods: poverty alleviation, food security, clean water, good health, education and participation in the economic life of the country. The use of prescribed fire is recognized as a good practice for restoring or maintaining habitats, resources, for reducing threats and for maintaining cultural values and biodiversity. In addition, fire management plans allow and promote the appropriate management and responsible use of fire for sustainable silviculture, agriculture, livestock and watershed management.

All fire management activities should be based on a legal framework and supported by clear policy and procedures.

Implementation Time

Greatly depends on the will of governments and by the level of education, awareness, participation and collaboration between the different stakeholders involved.

Life Time

The management actions should become part of the local or national land use plans and therefore should generally have a long life-time (decades).

Reference information

FAO, 2006. Fire management: voluntary guidelines. Principles and strategic actions. Fire Management Working Paper 17. Rome

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