European wildfire danger and vulnerability under a changing climate: towards integrating risk dimensions

Hugo Costa, Daniele de Rigo, Giorgio ibertà, Tracy Houston Durrant, Jesús San-Miguel-Ayanz

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This research focuses on European wildfire danger and vulnerability under a changing climate, to support the integration of some main climate-related components of wildfire risk. A detailed assessment is proposed on the varying frequency of fire danger classes (from the relatively safer to the extreme danger conditions) under changing climate. On a given area, the co-occurrence of an increasing number of high-danger days, and the presence of people potentially exposed to wildfires, and living within the more vulnerable interface between settlements and wildland, indicates an increasing fire risk. Focusing on the population potentially exposed to wildfires in Europe, the interface between urban areas and wildland (WUI) is here identified as an indicator of where the people are more vulnerable, both due to the easier ignition of areas where people can have an easier access to wildland, and due to a passive consequence of the increased risk. Once a given fire is ignited close to the WUI, neighbour locations are also threatened. In addition, summary indices of potential vegetation vulnerability are introduced to account not only for single species vulnerability, but rather for the combined multifaceted impacts on vegetation structure and composition following the definition of ecological domains by FAO and estimating their potential shift under different climate-change scenarios. An integrated assessment of the findings supports a recommendation to focus on the Mediterranean areas of Europe characterised by higher potential vegetation and population vulnerability, and higher potential fire danger. In addition, attention may be necessary to specific mountain areas (even outside the Mediterranean) especially on lower elevation areas where forests are dominant and more vulnerable to a rapidly changing ecology, and land abandonment may worsen the vegetation fuel and the WUI interface for the remaining population.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLuxembourg
PublisherPublications Office of the European Union
Number of pages59
VolumeEUR 30116 EN
ISBN (Electronic) 978-92-76-16898-0
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

NameJRC Technical Reports
PublisherEuropean commission
ISSN (Electronic)1831-9424


  • Wildfire
  • Climate change
  • Vulnerable Populations
  • Vulnerable vegetation

UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land


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