Man blamed for forest fires

WWF study: Only four percent of fires have a natural cause

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A large part of all forest fires worldwide could be prevented. This is the result of a WWF study published yesterday. Accordingly, only four percent of the brothers have a natural cause such as lightning. In all other cases man is responsible.

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"With clever forest management alone, hundreds of thousands of trees could be saved from the flames every year, " says Nina Griesshammer, forest expert at the WWF. The main causes of the devastating forest fires are arson and artificially created forests, followed by heat waves and lack of water. The WWF calls for an end to the monoculture forests, the return to native tree species and the consistent prosecution of arsonists.

"It's the same every year, " complains Griesshammer. "In the Mediterranean, you can set the clock according to when it will burn again." The fires are becoming ever more dramatic: Since the 1960s, the average annual forest fires in the Mediterranean have quadrupled. Every year, there are around 50, 000 fires that, according to the FAO, result in the loss of some 800, 000 hectares of forest - the equivalent of the area of ​​Corsica. Particularly affected are Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece.

More and more droughts and heat waves

"Due to climate change, we have to assume that droughts and extreme heat waves are becoming more common, " says Griesshammer. "We must therefore quickly away from monotonous rows of trees, in which fire spread rapidly." Display

The highest priority should be the prevention of fires: "We must do without clearcutting and the planting of foreign trees, " says the WWF expert. A prominent negative example is the eucalyptus monocultures in Portugal, which have displaced the formerly widespread and refractory cork oaks. "That's why Portugal today takes the European top spot in the forest fire danger."

According to WWF, a forest can often no longer independently recover from the consequences of the fire. Not infrequently, the burned area and thus the entire ecosystem with its living plants and animals are irretrievably lost.

(WWF, 27.07.2007 - DLO)