Articles in ‘Fire’
A team of Catalan researchers has studied the changes in the make-up of animal populations following forest fires, and have concluded that snails are a good indicator of forest recovery. The conclusions of this study, carried out in Sant Llorenç del Munt i l’Obac Natural Park, will help to ensure that post-fire forestry operations that do not harm these species of molluscs, which are sensitive to microclimatic conditions of the soil and vegetation structure. More here in English
2009 is proving the worst year in forest fires in Spain in the last decade. According to a report published by the WWF in Spain (Incendiómetro 2009) 22 large fires have destroyed 10,000 ha of forest in what has been a year of normal climatological year. 70,000 have burnt in total so far at a cost of some 385m euros. WWF criticise the efficiency of extinction methods, the lack of a clear national fire policy and the serious differences between the regions in investment and environmental management. They also point the blame at the depopulation of the rural world, dying villages inhabited today by the last elderly residents.
PS Apologies for not updating the Spain blog as often as I should.
29/04/2008 Latest news: fire appears to be moving away and is under control.
A fire is threatening the laurel forest of Garajonay National Park on Gomera, one of the last remaining Tertiary habitats to survive in Europe. The humid subtropical forest of Laurisilva covered almost all of Europe during the Tertiary, but disappeared due to climate changes . More soon. El Pais
This year’s cool and damp summer in much of Spain has helped to bring forest fires down to their lowest level for 10 years, and 68% less than the 10-year average. August was distinctly cool in Castilla y León, Galicia and Asturias, and there were moderate temperatures in the rest with ample rain. Specifically, 26,951 hectares of “forest” were burnt compared in the first six months of the year compared to 68,673 last year, with the Canaries fire accounting for 77.5%. Perhaps improved fire-fighting measures have helped too. We shall see. More on fire in Spain and its causes
It appears the Gran Canaria and Tenerife fires are now control, and much less surface area has been burnt than originally claimed. The latest figures talk of 8.000 ha burnt on Gran Canaria and 3,000 on Tenerife (El Pais). One of the worst affected areas is the Reserva Natural de Inagua on Gran Canaria.
Tenerife president Ricardo Melchior noted “Hemos tenido suerte dentro de la catástrofe porque no ha afectado a la zona de flora endémica y esperamos tenerlo recuperado en breve”
Icod de Los Vinos, Tenerife, August 2007. El Pais
The pine forest habitat of the sub-species of the blue chaffinch (Fringilla teydea polatzeki), found only on Gran Canaria has been decimated by this week’s fire. Until several days ago just 250 of these birds survived on the island. 95% of these birds lived in the Pinewoods of Inagua, Ojeda y Pajonales, precisely where the blaze first broke out. In fact the first people to evacuated were the researchers studying the bird. These researchers have stressed the importance of rebuilding drinking holes. The healthier population of the blue chaffinch on Tenerife seems to be less affected. SEO and follow sub links.
Blue chaffinch photo from SEO
Tellingly, the EU Action plan for the Blue chaffinch warned several years that “Forest fires have in the past played an important role in the destruction of Gran Canaria’s pinewoods. At present, a fire in one of the critical Blue Chaffinch areas could have catastrophic results due to the small areas and population involved.”
They also note “The Blue Chaffinch Fringilla teydea is endemic to the Canary Islands and comprises two subspecies, one found on Tenerife (F. t. teydea) and the other on Gran Canaria (F. t. polatzeki). Its habitat is Canary pine Pinus canariensis woodland which is listed in Annex I of the EU Habitats Directive. Although there has not been a census of the Tenerife population, its situation is thought to be stable, while the estimated population on Gran Canaria is 185–260 birds (Moreno 1991), which means that the latter subspecies is classified as Endangered both nationally and internationally.”
Image from Nasa of the fire on Tenerife and Gran Canaria. Somewhere between a third and a half of Gran Canary’s forest has been burnt.
Nasa satellite Canary Islands Fire
The scourge of Spanish summer fires are upon us again with this fire in La Alsandara, Tejeda on Gran Canaria, which has so far burnt more than 20,000 hectares of pine forest. A forest fire guard whose contract was about to run out, and who originally raised the alarm, has confessed to starting the fire and has been arrested. Forest guards are frequently accused of starting fires to guarantee work for themselves. A second fire is also raging on Tenerife. 13,000 people have been evacuated.(El Pais here)
“The fires have burnt at least 24,000 hectares (59,000 acres) of land on the islands of Gran Canaria and Tenerife.
Spain’s Environment Minister Cristina Narbona called a state of “maximum alert” and ordered more water-bombing planes to help douse the fires. Hundreds of firefighters are working with planes to quell the blaze. On Saturday, police arrested a forest ranger who admitted to starting one of the fires. The 37-year-old man told police his job contract was about to expire and he wanted to keep working, according to the AP news agency.
Local officials said that 5,200 people had been taken to safety on Gran Canaria and at least 5,700 people were evacuated from homes in Tenerife as the four-day blaze continued to burn.
Hazards Previously, dozens of people had been evacuated from seven areas since Friday. Paulino Rivero, head of the regional government said: “The rugged landscape of these islands makes firefighting very complicated, except from the air. “But while there is a lot of wind and very high temperatures, helicopters generally cannot operate.” A spokesman for Gran Canaria’s authorities said fires were burning on four fronts but attention was being focused on two in the central Fataga area. He added that only two helicopters were able to drop water there because of the “terrible” wind. The fire has damaged 65% of the Palmitos bird sanctuary park. There are fears that toucans and other exotic birds may have been killed. A spokeswoman from Tenerife’s island authorities said some 300 members of fire and other emergency services were fighting the blazes, with the support of 34 lorries, four helicopters and a water-bomber airplane.
Meanwhile, officials in southern Portugal said a major forest fire that broke out on Monday had now been brought under control.” (BBC)