Mediterranean forests are burning.
All of a sudden, Portugal, France, Italy, Greece… fires – sometimes large, out-of-control, deadly wildfires – are burning all over Mediterranean forest ecosystems.
Hot temperatures, little rainfall, strong winds, and a dense human population: all factors are there for the perfect firestorm. If this is what climate change has in store for us, well, the outlook for Mediterranean forests is bleak.
Besides stopping climate change (ha ha ha!) and fencing humans out of forests (unlikely to work, either) what can be done?
There is only one word: MANAGEMENT (the alternative is: ashes).
My lab‘s director, Eric Rigolot, has provided some clues in an interview (in French) with the French Huffington Post website. What does he say? That we have to use managed fires to prevent big, uncontrolled wildfires. This technique is current in other continents, but not in Europe.
I would add: vegetation itself (the fuel) must be managed in ways that minimise fire expansion, if not ignition. This is particularly true where human beings are likely to wander, because they are most of the time, albeit often unconsciously, the source of fires.
Forests must be tended to, must be gardened. In Europe, they’ve stopped being wilderness a long time ago, so the potential argument that, by managing forests, we alter some fancy natural equilibrium, is nonsense. It is maybe valid for some truly pristine biomes (if there is any), but not in Europe, not around the Mediterranean basin.
This means we are responsible for the health of our forests, including by limiting the effects of fires that we are the primary cause of.