Forest ecosystems are the largest manageable terrestrial carbon sinks with the capacity to mitigate climate change. Nevertheless, when a forest fire occurs, combustion releases greenhouse gases (GHGs) that contribute to global warming and, consequently, to climate change.
Existent studies estimate the carbon contained in vegetation and soil, as well as the CO2 emissions from a forest fire. However, the risk that these GHG emissions may be produced by fire is not yet known or quantified and therefore it is not included in fire prevention and management plans, nor is it determined which areas are critical because they present a greater risk of emissions, which can be used to focus prevention, management, extinction and restoration efforts on these areas as carbon reservoirs.
We emphasise "yet" because the European project REMAS "Greenhouse gas emission risk management in forest fires (2019-2022)", a project co-financed by the Interreg Sudoe Programme through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), addresses in its fourth follow-up meeting, a model in which the level of risk of a forest ecosystem is determined, as well as allowing this risk to be included in fire prevention and management plans.
In more detail, the model is a tool based on available data and information currently used by regional/local authorities and will serve to prevent, quantify and minimise risks as far as possible.
This work is being implemented thanks to transnational cooperation, in which different entities in southwest Europe are participating. Concretely, the project led by the Association of Forest Municipalities of the Comunitat Valenciana (AMUFOR) has prestigious partners such as the Polytechnic University of València (UPV-ITACA), the University of Valencia (UV-CIDE), the Provincial council of València (DIVAL), the National Institute of Agricultural and Food Research and Technology (INIA), the Municipality of Loulé (CML), the Higher Institute of Agronomy (ISA), Bordeaux Sciences Agro – National School of Agronomic Sciences of Bordeaux and associated partners to whom we are grateful for their participation and collaboration in the different phases of the project (www.sudoeremas.com/en/partners/)
We continue to work to ensure that this risk is considered in prevention and management plans, and that the vital role of vegetation and soil in mitigating and minimising carbon emissions in forest fires is recognised.