Canada and Chile join forces to manage forest fires

Chile, like Canada, is blessed with a vibrant forest sector which strives to balance both economic and environmental benefits derived from the forest. With approximately 14.5 million hectares of protected area encompassing 19.2% of its land base, Chile has one the world’s highest percentages of protected forests in the world. In addition, the forest sector is Chile’s second largest exporting industry. Year after year, thousands of hectares of forest are burned in Chile, mainly caused by the actions of people, damaging the economy, ecosystem and natural legacy for future generations. As such, fire is an extremely important factor to consider when managing forests and has an elevated profile after the recent tragedy in Valparaiso.
 
Wildfires have an obvious effect on forests. They can threaten communities and destroy significant timber resources resulting in costly losses. On the other hand, fire is a natural part of the forest ecosystem and important for maintaining the health and diversity of the forest. The International Model Forest Network represents a broad range of global forest regions and fire regimes. Enhanced knowledge management through the International Model Forest Network allows for the sharing of research and best practices among partner Model Forests around the world. To this end, several Chilean organizations (The National Forest Corporation in Chile - CONAF, the Ministry of Environment, the National Meteorological Service and the country’s three Model Forests are partnering with the Canadian Forest Service (CFS) , the International Model Forest Network and Environment Canada to increase the knowledge base about wildland fires, and to improve the ability of authorities to predict and manage risks and benefits. The Canadian Forest Service has been involved in fire research for decades and has extensive and highly regarded expertise in Wildland Fire Management. Wildland fire is a landscape process and can be managed to meet specific organizational objectives within a landscape such as Model Forest and more broadly, at a national scale.
 
Collaboration amongst Canada and Chile will see a capacity building component in the development and application of the Canadian Forest Fire Weather Index (FWI) System as the foundation for a fire early warning system in Chile to mitigate or prevent wildfire disaster.
 
Chile’s three Model Forests - Panguipulli, Araucarias del Alto Malleco and Cachapoal are representative of three unique forest types and will be used as landscape level demonstration sites to build capacity, calibrate models and pilot landscape fire management plans for eventual use at a national scale. Data sharing is already underway amongst NRCan-CFS and CONAFOR which includes key information concerning weather and vegetation from both Panguipulli and Araucarias del Alto Malleco Model Forests.
 
Another component of this collaboration will be to explore the linkages between climate change and fire management by estimating future expected fire regimes as influenced by climate change.
 
By engaging the Canadian Forest Services expertise in this capacity building initiative, the International Model Forest Network is delivering greater value to its members in support of international priorities.
 
Over the long term, this work can possibly lead to developing a range of potential fire management scenarios specific to landscape level as well as national level natural resource management objectives. Through the use of scenarios and fire management information systems, natural resource managers and policy makers will be able to review a range of fire management scenarios and make fire management decisions based on preferred outcomes that meet landscape level sustainability criteria.
 
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