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Appropriate vegetation management could be a key question in forest fire prevention

11.08.2006
The scarcity of rainfall registered throughout last autumn and this spring forecasts a dry summer inclined to big forest fires.

One more year the mountains of the province are in danger and although the technical services have tried to design strategies to fight against these disasters by preventing them, “still there are not effective measures to prevent new disasters in the Andalusian mountains”, explains the professor of the University of Granada [http://www.ugr.es], Francisco Valle Tendero. Among the main problems that still have not been tackled but that are some of the main causes for major forest fires are dense and mono-specific vegetation masses concentration (of the same species), a common feature in the Mediterranean forests that must be confronted in the next years to prevent greater disasters, according to the researcher who has been working for several years on different projects of preventive forestry – vegetation management to prevent large forest fires.

In this sense, Valle says that the solution to the problem is to thin out those dense masses and introduce different Mediterranean species that can be useful to slow down fire, contributing to the extinction of the fire. A measure that has not been carried out due to a problem of “economical investment” as “this system has traditionally considered to be very expensive, without thinking that it must not be considered from an economical but from a social viewpoint, as the money invested in these actions, besides contributing to prevention, generates work and employment in depressed rural areas”, the scientist points out.

In fact, in the last months a project has been concluded in collaboration with Andalusian Regional Government's Environmental Department to prepare different models of forest management that consist of preventing the existence of mono-specific and dense masses by planting other tree and bush species to stop the spread of future forest fires by increasing vegetation answer capacity.

But this is not the only problem fire management confronts in the province; the non-updating of the traditional preventive measures is another cause for its proliferation. According to Valle forestry traditional preventive techniques in the fight against forest fire such as building fire lanes, arranging lanes and cleaning the mountain must be renovated. First of all, because old fire lanes were designed leaving a fallow line without vegetation, which is not an immediate solution, and second, because as for mountain cleaning was carried out without considering any selection criterion, even coming to remove vegetation of high ecological value. At the same time, he emphasizes that “our managers need a change of mentality, as they continue investing little in the environment, without considering that nowadays citizens demand sustainable development projects, to use our resources as the engine of development in Andalusia”.

Environmental Education

Lastly, the Professor emphasizes the measures that should be put into practice, but still one more year have not been prepared to confront a “very difficult” summer as regards fires, environmental education at all levels that should start in the schools, as this way it would be possible not just to raise citizens´ awareness of the importance of forests for the development of the life cycle but also of the fact that man is the cause of his own destruction.

Antonio Marín Ruiz | alfa
Further information:
http://www.ugr.es
http://prensa.ugr.es/prensa/research/index.php

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