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 2009 the European Commission presented a White Paper on the framework for adaptation policies and measures to reduce the European Union's vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. The White Paper stresses the need to improve the knowledge base and to mainstream adaptation into existing and new EU policies. The European Commission will be publishing an EU Adaptation Strategy in 2013. A number of Member States have already taken action, and several have prepared national adaptation plans.
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 Climate Action: What is the EU doing about climate change?
Activities of the EU regarding climate change (both mitigation and adaptation)
White paper - Adapting to climate change: towards a European framework for action
EU framework for adaptation to climate change, leading to a comprehensive EU adaptation strategy by 2013
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
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A – What is happening to the environment and to humans?)