FOREST FIRES IN THE ALPS - STATE OF KNOWLEDGE AND FURTHER CHALLENGES

Publication date: 
Thursday, 5 December, 2019
Location: 
Vienna

State of knowledge, future challenges and options for an integrated fire management

In the last years devastating wildfires around the world pointed to the fact, that a further increase in frequency and severity of fires is likely due to the anthropogenic climate change. Higher temperatures in combination with drought, longer heatwaves and strong winds are generally known causes that increase the probability of more and more intense wildfires.

Recent forest fire events proofed quite well, that forest fires are also an urgent issue in the Alpine region that can lead to the destruction of protection forests, increasing natural hazards and resulting in high costs up to millions of euros for one fire. Forest fire frequency and severity will likely increase in the future due to climate change, more recreational use and changing forest management. Especially protection forests dominated by coniferous tree species on southern slopes are at risk. The impacts of forest fires can lead to new avalanche-prone slopes, a higher risk of rockfall, mudslides or soil erosion. Furthermore costs of firefighting, restoration of forests and necessary protective measures can rise dramatically.

In the context of the EUSALP - EU Strategy for the Alpine Region, the Action Group 8 is aiming to improve risk management and adapting governance mechanisms by enhancing and valorizing existing cooperation structures. The identification of good practice solutions in tackling climate change is one of the major activities. In this context the federal ministry of Sustainability and Tourism of Austria has launched the project “Forest fires in the Alps: State of knowledge and future challenges” in cooperation with the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU), and the members of Action Group 8.

A panel on forest fires experts was established, followed by the design and implementation of a multi-lingual online survey. Scientists, authorities and members of action forces of all EUSALP member states (Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Italy, France and Liechtenstein) contributed to the survey. Based on the results of the survey the processes, legal bases and major challenges in forest fire prevention, suppression and post-fire management in the Alpine region were identified. In June 2019 a forest fire workshop was held in Vienna in order to identify success stories on fire management and discuss the major elements of this white paper focusing on integrated fire management. The participants and the outcomes of the workshop can be found in the appendix of this report.