Prescribed burning as a cost-effective way to address climate change and forest management in Mediterranean countries

Key message

As climate change and forest management become the focus of various development agendas and the price of carbon rises in the market, the need for improving carbon sequestration and avoiding wildfires emissions increases. Prescribed burning interventions might play an important role in this context, as in some situations, it has been suggested that it can reduce overall fire emissions. In this study, the potential economic benefits associated with the practice are analyzed for five Mediterranean countries. Despite the uncertainty in the estimates, the results suggest that under some circumstances these interventions can be cost-effective from a carbon management perspective.


Context Wildland fires are becoming a major concern for many European countries and are expected to become more prevalent due to climate change, affecting societies, ecosystems, and various ecosystem services provided by forests that are not valued by traditional markets, such as carbon sequestration.
Aims The objective of this study is to evaluate the possibility of using carbon taxation to fund fire management measures in Mediterranean countries.
Methods The analysis is done by converting prescribed burning savings in carbon emissions into their economic value. This is performed for France, Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, which is studied in more detail, since the country has a National Prescribed Burning Program (NPBP) and a specific tax on carbon in place.
Results The results indicate that most countries could potentially have benefits in the order of millions of euros from employing prescribed burning measures. In Portugal, NPBP has the potential to be a relevant policy instrument to reduce wildfire emissions, as well as economically since the carbon emissions savings can outweigh the prescribed burning costs in some circumstances. Also, the revenue from the country’s Addition Tax on Carbon Emissions would be able to accommodate the foreseen prescribed burning costs.
Conclusion There are still many uncertainties regarding the benefits of prescribed burning in terms of overall emission reductions, and more studies should be conducted on this topic. However, as the price of carbon rises in the markets and climate change becomes a more pressing concern, even small emissions reductions might be economically interesting. The analysis framework used in this study has the potential to be useful for other countries, especially in Mediterranean-type ecosystems.

Forest management; Carbon sequestration; Prescribed burning; Emissions; Ecosystem services

Pacheco, R.M., Claro, J. Prescribed burning as a cost-effective way to address climate change and forest management in Mediterranean countries. Annals of Forest Science 78, 100 (2021).

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Paulo Fernandes

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