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Europe had one of its worst fire seasons on record last year, with nearly 2 million acres burned in just Portugal, Spain and Italy alone, the European Commission’s Joint Research Center (JRC) stated in a report released on March 7.
The study’s researchers believe the wildfires will continue to get worse in future years, particularly in countries near the Mediterranean Sea.
Last year’s massive flames on the Iberian Peninsula claimed the lives of 115 people. In October, smoke from the fires reached as far north as the United Kingdom.
More than one-third of Europe’s land area is covered by forest. Vital to Europe’s economy, forests generate approximately $615 billion in value and support more than 16 million people. Yet, “In addition to the direct damage caused by fires,” the JRC report stated, “wildfire disturbances to forest resources may interact with biological invasions such as emerging plant pests and diseases,” thus more quickly reducing the area of Europe’s forests.
“For example, forests stressed by drought may be more vulnerable to insect attack, which in turn leads to large numbers of dead trees that are susceptible to fire.”