This indicator monitors:
- the burnt areas in European countries;
- the current state of and projected changes in forest fire danger.
Methodology for indicator calculation
Historical fire data series are available in Europe and regularly updated by EFFIS. 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 data, information from past forest fires is routinely used to rate fire potential due to weather conditions. The Canadian FWI is used by EFFIS to rate daily fire danger conditions in Europe.
Methodology for gap filling
Forest fires are a significant disturbance agent in many forested landscapes. Frequent and large-scale fires have negative impacts on air and water quality, threaten biodiversity, increase the risks of soil erosion and spoil the aesthetics of a landscape. Forest fires also represent a threat to climate change mitigation, as they release large amounts of greenhouse gases. Furthermore, forest fires can cause large economic damages and the loss of human lives if they affect populated areas. Nevertheless, fires play an essential role in the dynamics of many ecosystems. They are an essential element of forest renewal, they help control insect and disease damage, and they reduce the build-up of fuel and thus the intensity of future fires.
Fire risk depends on many factors such as climatic conditions (e.g. humidity, temperature and wind), vegetation (e.g. fuel load and condition), topography, forest management practices and socio-economic context. The large majority of wildfires in Europe are ignited by humans, either accidently or intentionally. However, climatic factors and the availability of fuel determine the conditions under which fires occur and spread, once ignition has occurred. The extreme fire episodes and devastating fire seasons of recent years in Europe were, in most cases, driven by severe fire weather conditions. Thus, climate change is expected to have a strong impact on forest fire regimes in Europe.
The new EU strategy for adaptation to climate change adopted in February 2021 sets out how the European Union can adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change and become climate resilient by 2050. It has four principle objectives: to make adaptation smarter, swifter and more systemic, and to step up international action on adaptation to climate change. The strategy builds on the 2018 evaluation of the 2013 EU adaptation strategy, accompanied by a Commission staff working document. An open public consultation was conducted in preparation for the new strategy between May and August 2020.
The new EU forest strategy for 2030 adopted in July 2021 recognizes the growing threats to European forests from climate change, which can increase the risks of forest fires, pests and diseases. One of its overarching objectives is to protect, restore and enlarge the EU’s forests to combat climate change, reverse biodiversity loss and ensure resilient and multifunctional forest ecosystems. It calls for forest management that increases biodiversity and makes forests more resilient to climate-related disturbances.
Data sets uncertainty
Information on forest fires is collected in the JRC’s European Fire Database. This database is an important component of EFFIS. Forest fire data are provided each year by individual EU Member States in accordance with several EU regulations, and additional data from other European countries are checked, stored and managed by the JRC within EFFIS. Time series on forest fires for the five European countries most affected by forest fires (EUMED5) go back to 1980; data from other countries have been increasingly available since 1990. EFFIS covers all EEA member countries except Iceland. Currently, the database contains over 2 million individual fire event records. Data quality is generally high. However, a few countries have changed their reporting methodology over time, such as Greece in 1998.
No uncertainty has been specified