Climate change impacts on wildfires in a Mediterranean environment

Abstract

We analyse the observed climate-driven changes in summer wildfires and their future evolution in a typical Mediterranean environment (NE Spain). By analysing observed climate and fire data from 1970 to 2007, we estimate the response of fire number (NF) and burned area (BA) to climate trends, disentangling the drivers responsible for long-term and interannual changes by means of a parsimonious Multi Linear Regression model (MLR). In the last forty years, the observed NF trend was negative. Here we show that, if improvements in fire management were not taken into account, the warming climate forcing alone would have led to a positive trend in NF. On the other hand, for BA, higher fuel flammability is counterbalanced by the indirect climate effects on fuel structure (i.e. less favourable conditions for fine-fuel availability and fuel connectivity), leading to a slightly negative trend. Driving the fire model with A1B climate change scenarios based on a set of Regional Climate Models from the ENSEMBLES project indicates that increasing temperatures promote a positive trend in NF if no further improvements in fire management are introduced.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank AEMET and UC for the data provided for this work (Spain02 gridded precipitation data set) and the Forest Fire Prevention Service of ”Generalitat de Catalunya” (SPIF) for the fire data. For the RCM data used in this study, we acknowledge the ENSEMBLES project, funded by the European Commission’s 6th Framework Programme through contract GOCE-CT-2003-505539. Special thanks to Xavier Castro, Antoni Tudela and Esteve Canyameras from SPIF for the helpful discussions on the matter. This work was partially supported by the esTcena (Exp. 200800050084078) Spanish project, from Plan Nacional de I+D+i 2008–2011 and by the Italian project of Interest ”NextData” of the Italian Ministry for Education, University and Research.

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Correspondence to Marco Turco.

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Turco, M., Llasat, MC., von Hardenberg, J. et al. Climate change impacts on wildfires in a Mediterranean environment. Climatic Change 125, 369–380 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-014-1183-3

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Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Regional impact scenarios
  • Forest fires
  • Mediterranean ecosystems