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Fire Use Practices

A review of fire use practices as well as traditional burning applications in European and North African countries was carried out within Module 7 (Policies and practices assessment) of the Fire Paradox project. The review provides a snapshot of the situation as it was during the project (2006-2010). The results of the review are made available in an interactive map on the Fire Intuition platform.

Map of Fire Use Practices in Europe and North Africa [not implemented yet]

Fire can be a destructive force and, conversely, be a natural and vital component of management as well as a useful tool for improving people's life. Mankind has always used fire as a tool in rural activities and, even today, it remains a widespread practice in many regions. In the history of land-use in Europe, fire has been an important element in forestry, agriculture and pastoralism, and has shaped landscape patterns of high ecological and cultural diversity.

In past and present times, the use of fire, under prescription or not, has constituted a useful management instrument with different objectives. Today, the use of prescribed fire in Europe does not aim to 'imitate nature' or to reconstruct natural fire regimes. The objectives for the application of prescribed fire in Europe are rather to use fire as a tool for substituting traditional, nowadays abandoned land-use systems or traditional burning practices, or transferring principles from fire ecosystems to those ecosystems in which fire under prescribed conditions has positive effects on stabilization, biodiversity or productivity.

With regard to wildland fire management, particularly in Mediterranean countries, the increasing risk of high-severity wildfires and the impossibility to continue increasing suppression efforts at high economic costs requires new approaches to improve their prevention and suppression strategies.

Both professionals and researchers in Europe increasingly recognize the potential of using fire wisely in wildland fire management. Although distrusted by many, changing paradigms in nature conservation and ecology as well as a demand for more economic and flexible tools for wildfire management have given either new or renovated interest to prescribed burning and suppression fire practices.