Actions should generate the knowledge, tools, capacity and guidance to underpin an Integrated Fire Management strategy that promotes holistic landscape, land use, and forest management and considers the interaction among all phases of the wildfire management process (i.e. fire prevention and preparedness, fire detection and response, post-fire restoration and adaptation).
Proposals should assess the changes in fire regimes under various climate, vegetation and land use change scenarios, including settlement/housing development/infrastructure and rural-urban interface, with particular focus on ignition and fuel patterns, spatial and temporal dimensions of fire activity, including the expansion of the fire-prone area in Europe. Understanding extreme wildfire events, their structural causes, various impacts including on air quality, water quality, soil carbon and nitrogen stocks and greenhouse gas emissions, and the human, biological and physical processes at play is a prerequisite. The trade-offs and synergies between the various socio-economic, climate, and environmental elements influencing forest fires risk management and conditions of enhanced risk should be explored and analysed, particularly in wildland/rural interface areas. Methods to assess and mitigate vulnerability of societies to wildfires should also be developed. In addition, the relation of forest fires with other hazards that may trigger or result from fire (e.g. droughts, floods, debris flows, landslides, heatwaves and storms) should be investigated within a multi-hazard risk assessment framework.
Proposals should capitalise on the existing and develop new scientific knowledge (e.g. fire ecology, soil and water science, landscape restoration, social sciences), enhance understanding of the resistance, resilience and habitat suitability of mixtures of plant species, as well as the human factors (considering human behaviour, gender, economics and socio-demographic issues) affecting fire occurrence and develop strategic guidance for improved forest fire risk management and risk-informed decision-making.
Participatory approaches with national agencies and competent institutional bodies dealing with wildfire management and protection and land management are required. Actions should also promote increased interaction and strengthened cooperation between scientists, practitioners, forest and land owners and other key stakeholders. To ensure wide accessibility and use, they should also facilitate an inclusive approach in developing land management strategies through involving local communities in the design and planning of innovative fire prevention measures, strengthening the forest sector and promoting bio-economy and nature based solutions as well as in the co-design and co-production of research and corresponding outcomes.
In this context, actions are sought to develop and implement effective communication and societal outreach strategies to increase the awareness and preparedness of populations at risk towards a common culture of risk and more disaster-resilient communities. The outcomes should be made available through open access platforms (i.e. the Disaster Risk Management Centre, the European Forest Fires Information System). Actions should take advantage of data and information provided by the Copernicus programme, in particular the Copernicus Emergency Service.
Possibilities for clustering with actions supported under topic LC-CLA-12b-2020, LC-CLA-16b-2020, SC7 DRS-02 and other relevant ongoing and future nature-based solutions, LIFE and Civil Protection relevant projects should be envisaged, as appropriate, for cross-project co-operation, consultations and joint activities on cross-cutting issues and knowledge exchange as well as participating in joint meetings and communication events. To this end, proposals should foresee a dedicated work package and /or task and earmark the appropriate resources accordingly.
Collaboration with leading research institutions with experience in extreme wildfires management such as in Australia, Canada, South Africa, the United States and other non-EU countries is highly encouraged.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU in the range of EUR 10 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
Forest fires are a major hazard in Mediterranean Europe and increasingly so in Central, Eastern and Northern European countries. There is a limit in our capacity to deter fires, particularly mega-fires when conditions are most severe. This is the result of unbalanced management strategies and policies that can be effective in fire suppression under normal weather conditions but are insufficient to deal with extreme events such as mega-fires. Areas at risk from forest fires are projected to increase by 200% in Europe by the end of the 21st century, in particular due to climate change. Moreover, the development of urban areas in the vicinity of forest areas combined with a lack of risk awareness will increase the exposure and vulnerability of local communities. This new context calls for more effective science-based fire management and risk-informed decision-making, which takes into account the socio-economic, climate and environmental roots of forest fires. Improving fire management and governance therefore implies shifting the focus from fire suppression to fire prevention, increasing the awareness and preparedness of people at risk, and developing more balanced and long term forest management strategies that integrate fire prevention with forestry and land management (including conservation of habitats structures, resources and diversity), rural development, urban development, climate and energy policy objectives. An integrated fire management strategy is necessary to ensure that wildfires risks are managed in such a way that people and housing safety, economic growth, well-being, carbon sinks, biodiversity and ecosystem services are maintained or increased.
The project results are expected to contribute to:
- National Forest Fires Risk reduction strategies and risk-informed decision-making emerging from collaboration with key stakeholders, in compliance with the policy objectives set out in the EU Forest Strategy and relevant EU policies;
- improved coherence between EU policies’ objectives and national legislative frameworks defining the structural measures and operational activities regarding forest and communities protection from fire;
- more disaster-resilient communities through increased awareness and preparedness of populations at risk and a common culture of risk;
- increased knowledge exchange, sharing and access through the Disaster Risk Management Knowledge Centre, the European Forest Fires Information System and other open access platforms;
- innovation, harmonisation and exchange on methods of consistently recording and measuring wildfires and coherent collection of data;
- common framework for forest fire (wildfire) firefighting modules, training, exercises, incident management and command.