Tropical Forest Issues 61 - Towards fire-smart landscapes

Tropical Forest Issues 61 - Towards fire-smart landscapes

General - 10 November, 2022

Catastrophic wildfires across the globe have been grabbing headlines in recent years. A 2022 report from the United Nations Environment Programme indicates that wildfires are growing in frequency and intensity, and spreading in range, and predicts a 30% increase in the number of wildfires by 2050. Hotter and drier weather, next to changes in land use, are considered the main drivers. This stresses the importance of allocating more resources for preventing extreme wildfires occurring in the first place, alongside fire suppression after they have started.

This edition of Tropical Forest Issues No. 61 (formerly ETFRN News) includes 26 articles from 15 countries in tropical America, Asia and Africa, including contributions from 100 co-authors. There are also others that summarize the ecology, management and concepts related to fire management, and a synthesis that draws out common lessons and recommendations.

Highlights include the following insights. Local participation is crucial, for all parties to share their perceptions of the problem, and to jointly design and implement fire prevention and suppression. The importance of indigenous and traditional knowledge of fire management emerges strongly, especially in Latin American articles. Innovative cases are presented, such as the use of agricultural fuelbreaks, with potential for scaling, if land rights are secured. Equitable landscape governance as seen in indigenous territories was also importance for successful fire management. Capacity development for fire management is also needed at all levels, from national and subnational coordination to community volunteers — and not just for dedicated fire brigades. Where lacking, national integrated fire management strategies, policies and action plans must be developed, with cross-sector collaboration, clear roles and responsibilities, and resources for effective fire prevention and suppression.

What is also clear is that “no fire” policies introduced in many countries have been counterproductive, and have actually contributed to more intense wildfires. Thus a shift is urgently needed, from a focus on suppression to one on prevention and integrated management, including the controlled use of fire. Finally, expansion of international efforts is needed, building on well-established organizations and networks, for generating, collating and sharing experiences.

These experiences show that by combining fire science, traditional knowledge, adequate policies, community inclusion, landscape governance and capacity strengthening, it is possible to reduce the risks and impacts associated with wildfires and to give local populations a strong role in the management of their resources and the equitable governance of their landscapes.

“Towards fire-smart landscapes” - Tropical Forest Issues 61, was launched at the Global Landscape Forum, Saturday 12 November, 14.30-15.30, Sharm El Sheikh. Watch our session: Fire-smart landscapes as promising approach for effective adaptation and mitigation