Mosaic habitat management – positive effects for wildfire prevention

Combination of management techniques for mosaic habitats are beneficial and have multiple positive effects for wildfire prevention, explains Tomislav Hudina, Dinara back to LIFE project manager.
controlledburning

One could argue that controlled burning as a management technique releases CO2 in the atmosphere, as well as other gases which are produced by burning of the biomass. However, controlled burning has positive effects that can reduce the damage and negative effects of wildfires, which are uncontrolled, can spread in unreachable terrain, and usually occur in spring and summer season. Such wildfires are dangerous because they burn deep layers of humus that store large amounts of carbon, and can harm a number of wild animals which are unable to escape the fire and secure their young.

Therefore, controlled burning is a recognized and worldwide used method for grassland management, and is becoming a standard practice in legal documents as a recommended method for habitat management.

In the Mediterranean and Submediterranean region, climate and environment factors are bound to produce wildfires, and their occurrence is highly anticipated in the summer period. Active management of mosaic habitats, such as agricultural land, vineyards, olive groves, and woodlands are beneficial for reducing the potential spread and speed of wildfires. Additionally, those habitats are helping the fire prevention because a large portion of area is accessible for firefighters and firefighting equipment and machinery.

Unfortunately, the public is unaware of the importance of open habitats and related benefits. The public is concerned about the wildfire damages, which is positive, but there are a number of organized volunteer activities, which are supposed to mitigate wildfire damages, but their effects are questionable. Such activities are organized to plant a large number of pines, which will sooner or later be caught in a wildfire, and will pose a damage for nature, people and their property. Rethinking such activities and changing them into management of mosaic habitats with grassland is a much more effective alternative and would bring multiple benefits for wildlife protection.

Grazing is an additional nature-friendly solution which reduces wildfire damages. In overgrown terrain grazing is used in combination with other techniques such as manual removal of unwanted vegetation and controlled burning. The proximity of active shepherds is taken in consideration for selecting areas for controlled burning, which are a part of the project. The combination of grazing and controlled burning produces long term positive effects for grasslands, which stops and in some cases even reverse the succession of unwanted vegetation.

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