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Forest fires are becoming larger and more frequent
Date:10/24/2011

for agricultural use, with more continuous forest masses and more highly flammable vegetation", clarifies the expert. In spite of the fact that depopulation and the changes in land use were gradual, this research has detected a number of thresholds after which a very significant increase in the number of fires took place; these numbers fall around a population density of 0.6 inhabitants per square kilometer.

To carry out this study, the scientists first did basic research on the incidence of forest fires in the province of Valencia beginning in 1875. To do this, they reviewed the forest administration's archives and identified every news item regarding fires that had appeared in the local newspapers. Thanks to this work, they were able to elaborate a database with thousands of records of fires identified by date, location and the surface area that had burned. Finally, they related all of this information to socioeconomic variables (evolution of the population, land use, etc.) and climatic variables (precipitation, temperature), by applying complex statistical methods to find the connection among the different variables.

To sum up, what they have found is that the change in the occurrence of fires that are recorded in the historical research cannot be explained by the gradual change in climate, but rather that it corresponds to changes in the availability of fuel, the use of sources of energy and the continuity of the landscape. This research, which attempts to explain the evolution of fires, may be very useful for the management of forest areas prone to fires in the middle and long term, according to the authors.


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Contact: Ana Herrera
oic@uc3m.es
Carlos III University of Madrid
Source:Eurekalert  

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