Assessing Fire Risk in Spain

Wildfires have an obvious effect on the forest. In uncontrolled situations they can destroy vast areas of valuable timber resources. But with proper management, the effects of fire can be mitigated. To do this properly requires intensive research.
Since 1992, Model Forests around the world have facilitated and promoted research and the implementation of new and innovative ideas, processes, approaches and techniques in the sustainable management of natural resources. Recently, the Urbión Model Forest in Spain hosted researchers interested in assessing the forest’s fire risk. 
The Urbión Model Forest is a large landscape of more than 100 000 ha containing diverse forest types and mountain pastures. There is a sustainable flow of certified timber and the area provides economic sustainability to a large proportion of the local community. As in most Mediterranean forests, wildfires create a high risk to the timber production and assessing the risk is an important component to forest management planning.
A required first step in fire risk management is identifying the specific spatial components of the forest landscape. Researchers used two areas (900 ha and 200 ha) in the Model Forest to gather data from sample plots and LiDAR (laser remote sensing technology). Models based on specific stand variables were constructed. Simulations using the spatialized data were performed in order to assess the potential fire behaviour across the whole landscape. Four scenarios that varied moisture and wind conditions were created. Then, maps of fire intensity and probability were produced.
The methodology and results have not only benefited the landscape of the Model Forest but are directly applicable for operational forest planning at the landscape level in other parts of the world. Model Forests continue to provide a unique and effective research platform for researchers and scientists.
Mr. José-Ramón González-Olabarria, of the Forest Sciences Center of Catalonia (CTFC), won a Mediterranean Model Forest grant to collaborate with colleagues from the Cesefor Foundation, the Polytechnic University of Madrid and the University of Eastern Finland on the fire risk study. The grants are awarded to scientists with proposals for research that is expected to make a significant contribution to advancing Mediterranean forest science on one of the topics prioritized in the Mediterranean Forest Research Agenda and which can be applied to a Model Forest. The program is promoted by the Mediterranean Model Forest Network, the Center of Forests and Forest Industry Services and Promotion of Castilla and Léon (CESEFOR) and the Mediterranean Regional Office of the European Forest institute (EFIMED).
González-Olabarria, J-R, Rodríguez, F, Fernández-Landa, A, and Mola-Yudegoe, B. 2012. Mapping fire risk in the Model Forest of Urbión (Spain) based on airborne LiDAR measurements. Forest Ecology and Management, 282, 149–156.