The project aims to improve forest fire prevention under a changing climate in the Alpine Space, by creating a shared warning system based on weather conditions.
The fire regime at any given location is the result of complex interactions between fuels, social issues, topography, ignitions and weather conditions. The analysis of fires frequency and distribution will allow to model forest fire danger in the alpine region.
The definition of a univocal Alpine Forest Fire Danger Scale will support the interpretation of danger thresholds as enhancement of emergency plans and operational procedures. Due to the debate on climate change, forest fires as potential disturbance have become an issue in the Alpine region over the last decade. An Alpine network on forest fire impact mitigation will be assembled reflecting common policies in risk prevention management, by fostering mutual aid in prevention, prepardeness and suppression procedures.
The alpine forest fires
During the last decades the frequency of forest fires showed a large increase: nearly 20.000 ha of Alpine forests, in addition to grasslands and non forestry areas, are burned each year. Forest fires affect most of the alpine regions in Winter and early Spring, nevertheless frequency and burned area are increasing also in Summer, probably due to the global warming. At this stage forest fires are already threatening the forest heritage of the Alps. Forest fires influence the vegetation composition and structure of any given location; fire shapes the landscape and influences biogeochemical cycles such as the carbon cycle and soil processes. The impacts of forest fires affect the ecosystems severely by soil erosion as possible trigger for landslides and loss of soil fertility. The effects on biodiversity, human safety and mountain economy play an important role in rural development.
The social and economic expenditures of dealing with sprouted fires in the alpine regions are rapidly increasing and are not in accordance with a sustainabile development. In future the situation could get out of control caused by rising temperatures, more frequent and severe droughts and other weather extremes due to climate change. Furthermore the occurrence of forest fires will be intensified as a consequence of booming turism, overexploitation and mountain depopulation in the Southern Alps. Therefore actions must have to be substantially enhanced.
The ALP FFIRS objectives
The overall objective of the ALP FFIRS project is to control and reduce the forest fire hazard in the Alpine environment considerably, through prevention and mitigation actions. The project aims to develop a multi-referential innovative service that supports forest fire management, above all in prevention activities and in the mitigation of the negative impacts on the Alpine forests. The ambitious goal of ALP FFIRS is to set up a framework for a common warning system for forest fire danger rating in the whole Alpine region taking into account weather conditions and vegetation patterns. The decision support tool will consist of a daily fire danger level assessment and forecast in order to identify in advance critical conditions, favourable to forest fire triggering and spreading. The system will provide actors involved in forest fire prevention and suppression, as well as the general public, with enhanced and more accurate predictions of forest fire danger. Methodologically similar and standardised actions can thus be ensured, through cooperation between partners, such as preparedness plans.
The ALP FFIRS project is co-funded by the EU INTERREG Alpine Space 2007-2013 Programme under the priority 3 “Environment and risk prevention”.