As a part of its forestry programme, for more than 50 years FAO has provided over the years information and technical assistance to its member countries and to the international community in the area of forest fire management and control.
FAO has an advantage through its expertise and experience, cross-sectoral activities dealing with the natural resource base and direct contacts with its member countries, to collect, aggregate and analyse data on forest fire outbreaks, areas affected and damage caused, and from this, to help detect trends. Through a multi-disciplinary approach to technical and policy aspects, FAO's activities are focused not only on woodlands and other land used for the provision of forest goods and services but also for range management and agriculture. FAO's role as "neutral forum" is to bring countries together to discus technical and policy issues In carrying out these activities, FAO collaborates with other organizations or other bodies within and outside of the UN System, including e.g. ECE and ISPRA. In collaboration with UNEP, which has an advantage in assessing the environmental impact of fires and other environmental aspects of forests fires. FAO can address other environmental aspects, which are partly related to forest management.
Activities in data collection and analysis have included inter alia:
- Collaboration with the Economic Commission of Europe in the regular up-dating and production of forest fire statistics, including incidence and extent of forest fires in the OECD countries; maintenance of the corresponding data base by FAO/ECE - Geneva.
- Coordination of a Forest Fire Network within the framework of Silva Mediterranea, an FAO Statutory Body, including the development of a forest fire data base cum information system, in which data provided by member countries participating in the work of Silva Mediterranea is being lodged for subsequent verification in collaboration with countries concerned and regular up-dating. This data base complements (i) above.
- Information on the incidence and extent of forest fires in developing countries (published as FAO Forestry Department Miscellaneous Paper in late 1992) has formed the basis for the presently on-going development of a forest fire information system on wild -fires in developing countries, compatible with, and complementary to, (i) and (ii) above.
- Within the framework of the Forest Resources Assessment programme coordinated by FAO (including also the Temperate/Boreal Zone component of the assessment coordinated by FAO/ECE), FAO is seeking additional information from member countries on areas and incidence of forest fires for inclusion in the forthcoming, Forest Resources Assessment 2000 report.
- The Forestry Department and the Remote Sensing Centre of the Sustainable Development Department of FAO collaborate with the European Joint Research Centre at ISPRA, Italy, with special reference to the use of satellite remote sensing and GIS in the detection and estimation of incidence and extent of forest fires.
The dissemination of information has been done in collaboration with the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), through the publication of the quarterly journal, "International Forest Fire News", within the framework of the FAO/ECE/ILO Committee on Forest Technology, Management and Training
Other activities by the Organization to disseminate information on forest fires included i.a. the publication of the FAO manual, "Forest Fire Control", reprinted twice since its first appearance as Forestry and Forest Products Studies No.5 - 1953. This FAO document was extensively used in the elaboration of the ITTO "Guidelines on Fire Management in Tropical Forests" (ITTO Policy Development Series No. 6, 1997). In 1975, FAO carried out a global study which resulted in the document "Detection and control of Forest Fires for the Protection of the Human Environment: Proposals for a Global Programme". In the mid 1980s, when world opinion was focused on fire control and the use of fire as a tool in land management in Latin America, FAO published a manual on Forest Fire Management in Central America and the Caribbean (FO:Misc/84/14). Subsequently, FAO co-sponsored the publication of the Proceedings of the International Wildland Fire Conference (1989), which was considered a landmark in the field. A special issue on Forest Fires of FAO Forestry Department's journal, Unasylva was published in 1990. The document, "Global Forest Fire Statistics in Developing Countries" (FO/Misc/92/7) complemented the regular issues of ECE/FAO Forest Fire Statistics (OECD countries). FAO Forestry Paper No.70, "Forest Fire Management Terminology"(trilingual), published in 1986, is presently being up-dated in collaboration with i.a. IUFRO.
More information: http://www.fao.org/FORESTRY/FON/FONP/fire/fire2.stm
Fire has been a major influence on the development of many of the world's forests and on their management. Some forest ecosystems have evolved in response to frequent fires from natural causes, but most others are susceptible to the effects of wildfire, and every year millions of hectares of the world's forests are consumed by fire, resulting in enormous losses to the economy in timber burned and real estate degraded, damage to environmental, recreational and amenity values, high costs of suppression and even loss of life.
The vast majority of today's fires in forest and woodlands are caused by humans, mainly as the result of the use of fire as a land management tool e.g. for conversion of forests into agricultural lands, for maintaining grazing lands or for facilitating the extraction of non-wood forest products. Forests are also burnt to clear the land for mining, industrial development or resettlement. Forest fires can result from personal and ownership conflicts.
Although fire has been the primary agent of deforestation, as a natural process it has an important function in the health and maintenance of certain ecosystems. Thus the traditional view of fire as a destructive agent requiring immediate suppression has given way to the view that fire can and should be used to meet land management goals under specific ecological conditions.
GEO Data Category:
Forest, fire, extent, annual average, national level
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GIS Data Info
Statistics Data Info
Data with zero ("0") value are related to accidents without involved people or absence of reported
Calculated pre 1991-1992 relative country share
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Forest Fire Extent - Annual Average comprises the reported forest areas exposed to
Total Forest includes natural forests and forest plantations. The term is used to refer to
land with a tree cover of more than 10 percent and area of more than 0.5 ha. Forests
are determined both by the presence of trees and the absence of other predominant
land uses. The trees should be able to reach a minimum height of 5 m. Young stands
that have not yet reached, but are expected to reach, a crown density of 10m percent
and tree height of 5 m are included under forest, as are temporarily unstocked areas.
The term includes forests used for purposes of production, protection, multiple use or
conservation (i.e. forest in national parks, nature reserves and other protected areas),
as well as forest stands on agricultural lands (e.g. windbreaks and shelterbelts of trees
with a width of more than 20 m) and rubberwood plantations and cork oak stands. The
term specifically excludes stands of trees established primarily for agricultural
production, for example fruit tree plantations. It also excludes trees planted in