Climate change impact on future wildfire danger and activity in southern Europe: a review uri icon

abstract

  • Key message Wildfire danger and burnt areas should increase over the century in southern Europe, owing to climate warming. Fire-prone area expansion to the north and to Mediterranean mountains is a concern, while climate-induced burnt area increase might be limited by fuel availability in the most arid areas. Further studies are needed to both assess and reduce uncertainties on future trends. Context Wildfire is the main disturbance in forested ecosystems of southern Europe. Warmer and drier conditions projected in this region are expected to profoundly affect wildfire regimes. Aims In this review, we pursue a twofold objective: (i) report the trends in wildfire danger and activity projected under warming climate in southern Europe and (ii) discuss the limitations of these projections. Methods We reviewed 23 projection studies that examined future wildfire danger or wildfire activity at local, regional or continental scale. Results Under the scenarios with the highest greenhouse gas emissions, we found that projection studies estimate an increase in future fire danger and burnt areas varying, on average, from 2 to 4% and from 5 to 50% per decade, respectively. Further comparisons on the magnitude of increase remained challenging because of heterogeneous methodological choices between projection studies. We then described three main sources of uncertainty that may affect the reliability of wildfire projections: climate projections, climate-fire models and the influences of fuels, fire-vegetation feedbacks and human-related factors on the climate-fire relationships. Conclusion We suggest research directions to address some of these issues for the purpose of refining fire danger and fire activity projections in southern Europe.

publication date

  • 2020
  • 2020