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05/07/2016

Wildfires: to Fight or Not to Fight

FLEG II suggested a new strategy to combat forest fires: a switch from fighting every fire to a more selective wildfire management based on the environmental and economic assessment of the consequences.

FLEG II experts presented the original new method at the 5th International Practical Scientific Conference “Innovations and Technologies in Forestry 2016”ITF 2016, which gathered over 300 leading experts in the field.

“Taking into account the limited budget allocated for the prevention and control of forest fires, measures aimed at improving the efficiency in this area are crucial”, says Andrey Zakharenko, FLEG II expert and one of the authors of the new method. “One of the promising solutions is to change the strategy of combating forest fires: instead of trying to put out all the fires switch to regulated fire management on the basis of ecological and economic assessment of the possible consequences".

So far this solution has not been widely used, partly due to the lack of scientifically sound and realistic guidelines. FLEG II experts tried to fill this gap and show an example of practical criteria of zoning forests based on their socio-economic and environmental value, which can be used in fire fighting strategies.

The suggested method includes three main stages:

Zoning of forest units by their socio-economic and ecological value:

A – zone of geographically and economically inaccessible forest lands

B – zone of accessible forest lands that are not leased

C – zone of forest lands that are leased and actively used

D – zone of forests and / or sites of high and special socio-economic and ecological value

During the second stage, the norms for acceptable annual forest burning are set for forest management units. They reflect the minimal area of forest fires that can be allowed taking into account how the specific forest formation reacts to fire and the dynamics of the forest restoration after fire.

At the third stage, using the matrix of effects and probabilities, the risk of the biggest damage that can be caused by forest fires is assessed. The map with zones allocated during Stage 1 reflects the effects (a). It is superimposed on the map of forest formations by fire hazard classes (b) – they define the fire hazard of a particular area depending on forest characteristics (species composition, etc.) and reflect the probability criteria. The result is a map that divides forest areas by different risk groups (c).

(а) (б) (с)

The priorities can be narrowed further by combining these data with the data of weather forecasts (See Table. Left column shows “Risk Groups”allocated during Stage 3 and the other rows show the fire hazard depending on the weather conditions).

This way, as a result of the data analysis done in stages 1 and 3, experts responsible for fire control get targeted information about forest areas that need most urgent and active fire prevention and control measures. The results received in Stage 2 give objective information about the quality of this work, so they serve as an indicator of forest fire management efficiency.

This method was tested on two model territories located in Krasnoyarsk and Khabarovsk regions, which demonstrated that the implementation of the method can increase the efficiency of spending the budget and resources for forest fire control, and introduce objective indicators of fire prevention and control efficiency into the regional forestry programs.

The report in Russian: http://www.enpi-fleg.org/site/assets/files/1974/methodical_recomendations.pdf



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