Subject: Environmental And Earth Sciences, Environmental Science Keywords: Global warming; projections; climate-fire relationship; FWI; burnt areas; forest fuels; Mediterranean forests.
Online: 25 October 2019 (11:35:28 CEST)
Wildfire is the main disturbance in forested ecosystems of southern Europe and is due to complex interactions between climate-weather, fuels and people. Warmer and drier conditions projected in this region are expected to profoundly affect wildfires, which will impact ecosystems and humans. We review the scientific literature addressing the assessment of climate change impacts on wildfires in southern Europe, with 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 wildfire projections under the specific biogeographical context of southern Europe.We identified 22 projection studies that examined future wildfire danger or wildfire activity at local, regional or continental scale. Under the scenario with the highest greenhouse gas emissions, we found that projections studies estimate an increase in future fire danger and burnt areas varying, on average, from 2 to 4 % and from 15 to 25 % per decade, respectively. 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. While all studies agreed on the direction of changes, further comparisons on the magnitude of increase remained challenging because of heterogeneous methodological choices between projections studies (climate models, projection period, spatial scale and fire metrics). 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 fuel load/structure and human related factors on the climate-fire relationships. We finally suggest research directions to address some of these issues for the purpose of refining fire danger and fire activity projections in southern Europe.