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Climate Changes & the threat of Forest Fires

Climate by definition, is the long-term prevailing weather conditions in an area. The raising of the average temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere during the last century has concerned the scientists all over the world. Scientists are confident that global warming is caused by the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere, as a result of human activity mainly, while only partially is related to natural disturbances.

Scientific data show that during the last century, the average temperature on the planet’s surface has risen by 0.6 degrees Celsius worldwide and by almost 1 degree Celsius in Europe, which it is characterized as unusual and rapid warming.

Global climate change has already affected the natural environment such as rising temperatures, rising sea levels due to the melting of polar ice, more frequent thunderstorms and heavy rainfalls, and generally extreme weather events as well as severe droughts, widespread fires and desertification. Scientists warn that if we do not take action, climate change will disrupt the functioning of our natural environment, with socio-economic consequences all around the world.

Forests are among the most important ecosystems in the Mediterranean region, as they host unique biodiversity and provide socio-economic and environmental benefits, such as soil stabilization and reduced soil erosion, enrichment of groundwater, biomass production, microclimate regulation and nature friendly touristic development.

It is scientifically proven that there is a strong interaction between fire and climate change in the regions of Southern Europe and especially in the Mediterranean countries (Portugal, Greece, Spain, Italy, France, Cyprus).  This interaction results to the increase of the number, the intensity and the extent of fires with negative effects on the environment.

Unavoidably under the prism of climate change the forests of Cyprus could not be unaffected. Instead, they have become more vulnerable and at the same time much more important. Regardless of the actions taken, aiming to climate change mitigation, further precautionary measures should be taken especially on the suppression of forest fires, targeting to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by forest fires, as well as to the increase of removals by the absorption of CO2 by forests.

Paris Agreement also points to the critical role of the whole land use sector in reaching long-term climate mitigation objectives. The land use, land use change and forestry (‘LULUCF’) sector has the potential to provide long-term climate benefits, and thereby to contribute to the achievement of the Union’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction target, inline to the long-term climate goals of the Paris Agreement. Under EU legislation adopted in May 2018, EU Member States have to ensure that greenhouse gas emissions from land use, land use change or forestry are offset by at least an equivalent removal of CO₂ from the atmosphere in the period 2021 to 2030.

Areti Christodoulou

Forester – Environmentalist, PhD

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Forest Fires

Forest fires are a destructive phenomenon affecting many countries globally, including Cyprus.

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