Fire is a factor that historically has had one of the greatest effects shaping the Mediterranean landscape, but the fire regime has changed in recent decades. During the period of 1960-1990, both the annual number of wildfires as well as the annual burned area increased in an alarming way. After 1990, both variables tended to stabilize, though with many ups and downs, but what has not stopped growing is the appearance of a relatively recent phenomenon: large wildfires. Large wildfires cannot be compared with typical wildfires. Many end up escaping from control of extinction mechanisms, given their rapidity of propagation, virulence, and capacity to create secondary outbreaks and risky situations for human settlements. Also, the regeneration of areas impacted by these wildfires is often much more difficult. The 252 large wildfires which occurred in Spain between 2002 and 2012 cost close to 100 lives and burnt almost 1 million hectares, an area equivalent to the whole province of Lugo (Spain).
As a result of temperature increases due to climate change, in the short term a notable increase in forest fires is expected, in part because forests will also tend to be drier. On the other hand however, high-mountain forests, which are currently wetter and not accustomed to the passing of flames, will probably be those most affected by this disturbance.
- Prevention of forest fire risk: We continually improve the map of daily fire risk and the prioritized protection plans of large forest masses (PPPMs).
- Study and modeling of the fire regime: We analyze the role of forest structure in forest fire and we develop models that allow us to predict vulnerability of the territory to this disturbance and also its long-term effects.
- Forest crown fire and fuel models: We develop fuel maps and models and we analyze why some fires become high-intensity or follow extreme behaviors.
- Fire’s effects on plants: We study survival and regeneration strategies exhibited by the vegetation in response to fires in function of the characteristics of each fire.
- Fauna recovery following wildfire: We analyze the factors which determine the survival and recovery of fauna after fire, as well as their roles as dispersal agents and predators of seed banks.
- Management of burned areas: We evaluate management alternatives which promote reductions in fire risk and favor posterior regeneration, especially in the case of large wildfires.