Published (reviewed and quality assured)
Justification for indicator selection
Forest fires are an integral part of forest ecosystem dynamics in many ecosystems where they are an essential element of forest renewal. They help control insect and disease damage and eliminate litter that has accumulated on forest floors. At the same time, forest fires are an important disturbance agent in many forested landscapes. Fire risk depends on many factors such as weather, vegetation (e.g. fuel load and condition), topography, forest management practices and socio-economic context, to mention the main ones. Extreme fire episodes and devastating fire seasons of recent years in Europe were in most cases driven by severe fire weather conditions. Although most of the wild fires in Europe are ignited by humans (either accidently or intentionally), it is widely recognised that weather conditions and accumulation of fuel play a dominant role in affecting the changes in fire risk over time. Thus climate change is expected to have a strong impact on forest fire regimes in Europe.
- Burnt area in five southern European countries
- State and trend of fire danger
- Projected changes in fire danger
- Area [ha]
- Average Seasonal Severity Rating (SSR) [dimensionless]
- Change in SSR [%]
Policy context and targets
In April 2013 the European Commission presented the EU Adaptation Strategy Package (http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/adaptation/what/documentation_en.htm). This package consists of the EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change /* COM/2013/0216 final */ and a number of supporting documents. One of the objectives of the EU Adaptation Strategy is Better informed decision-making, which should occur through Bridging the knowledge gap and Further developing Climate-ADAPT as the ‘one-stop shop’ for adaptation information in Europe. Further objectives include Promoting action by Member States and Climate-proofing EU action: promoting adaptation in key vulnerable sectors. Many EU Member States have already taken action, such as by adopting national adaptation strategies, and several have also prepared action plans on climate change adaptation.
The European Commission and the European Environment Agency have developed the European Climate Adaptation Platform (Climate-ADAPT, http://climate-adapt.eea.europa.eu/) to share knowledge on observed and projected climate change and its impacts on environmental and social systems and on human health; on relevant research; on EU, national and subnational adaptation strategies and plans; and on adaptation case studies.
No targets have been specified.
Related policy documents
Climate-ADAPT: Mainstreaming adaptation in EU sector policies
Overview of EU sector policies in which mainstreaming of adaptation to climate change is ongoing or explored
Climate-ADAPT: National adaptation strategies
Overview of activities of EEA member countries in preparing, developing and implementing adaptation strategies
DG CLIMA: Adaptation to climate change
Adaptation means anticipating the adverse effects of climate change and taking appropriate action to prevent or minimise the damage they can cause, or taking advantage of opportunities that may arise. It has been shown that well planned, early adaptation action saves money and lives later. This webportal provides information on all adaptation activities of the European Commission.
EU Adaptation Strategy Package
In April 2013 the European Commission adopted an EU strategy on adaptation to climate change which has been welcomed by the EU Member States. The strategy aims to make Europe more climate-resilient. By taking a coherent approach and providing for improved coordination, it will enhance the preparedness and capacity of all governance levels to respond to the impacts of climate change.
Key policy question
How is climate change affecting forest fire risk in Europe?
Methodology for indicator calculation
Historical fire series are available in Europe and regularly updated within EFFIS. The European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) addresses forest fires in Europe in a comprehensive way, providing EU level assessments from pre-fire to post-fire phases, thus supporting fire prevention, preparedness, fire fighting and post-fire evaluations.
To complement the information from past forest fires, past trends of fire danger have also been analysed processing series of meteorological fire danger indices, which are routinely used to rate the fire potential due to weather conditions. The Canadian Fire Weather Index (FWI) is used in EFFIS to rate the daily fire danger conditions in Europe. FWI can be transformed with a simple equation into a daily severity rating index which is deemed to be linearly related with fire suppression difficulties. Daily severity values can be averaged over the fire season obtaining a Seasonal Severity Rating (SSR) index, which allows objective comparison of fire danger from year to year and from region to region.
Methodology for gap filling
- Schmuck et al. 2011: Forest fires in Europe 2010 Schmuck, G., San-Miguel-Ayanz, J., Camia, A., Durrant, T. H., Santos de Oliveira, S., Boca, R., Whitmore, C., Giovando, C., Libertá, G., Corti, P. and Schulte, E. (2011) Forest fires in Europe 2010 (Forest fires in Europe No. 11). Joint Research Centre, Ispra, Italy.
- Camia et al. 2008: Past and future trends of forest fire danger in Europe Camia, A., Amatulli, G. and San-Miguel-Ayanz, J. (2008) Past and future trends of forest fire danger in Europe (JRC 46533, EUR 23427 EN). European Commission, Joint Research Centre.
EEA data references
- No datasets have been specified here.
External data references
Data sources in latest figures
Data sets uncertainty
It is very difficult to separate the impacts of climate change on forests and forestry from non-climate influences (e.g. related to management) in observational data. Therefore, efforts to understand the impacts of climate change on forests and forestry are largely based on controlled experiments in laboratories and on small forest plots, and on model simulations.
Information on forest fires is collected in the European Fire Database at the JRC. The European forest fire database is an important component of the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS). Forest fire data are provided each year by individual EU Member States through several EU regulations, and additional data coming from other European countries have been checked, stored and managed by JRC within EFFIS. The quality of the data is high. A time series on forest fires exists back to 1980 for the five European countries most affected by forest fires. Currently, the database covers data from 22 countries in Europe and contains over 2 million individual fire event records.
Further information on uncertainties is provided in Section 1.7 of the EEA report on Climate change, impacts, and vulnerability in Europe 2012 (http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/climate-impacts-and-vulnerability-2012/)
No uncertainty has been specified
Short term work
Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.
Long term work
Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.
Responsibility and ownership
EEA Contact InfoAnnemarie Bastrup-Birk
Frequency of updates
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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