Fire-smart management of forest landscapes in the Mediterranean basin under global change
Modified, more severe fire regimes are developing in the Mediterranean basin as a result of changes in land use and climate. Current fire management privileges fire suppression and tends to ignore land management issues, which may further accelerate the transition to a more fire-prone future and magnify the problem. Fire-smart management aims to control the fire regime by intervening on vegetation (fuel) to foster more fire-resistant (less flammable) and/or fire-resilient environments. Scientific knowledge supporting the creation and maintenance of fire-smart wildlands is critically reviewed, considering the landscape and the forest stand scales. Fuel management strategies (isolation, structural modification, and type conversion) are discussed in regards to their current and future potential to buffer the effects of global change on the extent and severity of fires. Uncertainty in the outcomes of fire-smart management arises mainly from insufficient understanding of the relative weights of fuel and weather-drought on the fire regime. Likewise, linkage between global change processes and the fire regime is not straightforward. Shrublands and, in general, open and dry vegetation types will prevail even more in future landscapes. Decrease in biomass will limit fire incidence over parts of the Mediterranean. However, the fire regime will be largely driven by weather, advising concentration of fuel management efforts in wildland–urban interfaces and in forests and their vicinity; decrease of landscape fire severity rather than area burned as the objective; prescribed burning as the treatment of choice, except in the wildland-urban interface; and focus on forest types that are fire-resilient irrespective of flammability. âº Global change is predicted to worsen the fire problem. âº Fire-smart management is essential for forest sustainability in the Mediterranean. âº Management should focus on fire-severity mitigation and forest resiliency to fire.