Like in Canada with the giant fires, are our forests condemned to burn every year? – Evening edition West-France

Like in Canada with the giant fires, are our forests condemned to burn every year? – Evening edition West-France
Like in Canada with the giant fires, are our forests condemned to burn every year? – Evening edition West-France

By Clémentine MALIGORNE.

Since this Sunday, May 12, 2024, hundreds of forest fires have been raging in western Canada. Are we condemned to seeing our forests burn every year between spring and summer?autumn ? Elements of response with two environmental experts.

Apocalyptic images that seem to repeat themselves every year, and even earlier and earlier in the season. Since Sunday May 12, 2024, hundreds of forest fires have raged and thousands of people have had to be evacuated in the west of the country. In Canada, the fire season started early, and the coming months promise to be difficult according to federal authorities. Of the “temperatures above normal”, combined with “drought conditions”, are going “exacerbate the risk and intensity of forest fires”

The weather is favorable for such events in North America. And there is an air of déjà vu unfortunately. In 2023, Canada experienced the worst fire season in its history. The fires, which affected the country from east to west, burned more than 15 million hectares: they cost the lives of eight firefighters and pushed the authorities to evacuate 230,000 people.

Read also: With global warming, is this the end of the four seasons in France?

More flammable forests in Canada

Are we doomed to see our forests burn like this? If the phenomenon has been increasing over the past ten years, “forests are not necessarily destined to burn”answers Maud Lelievre, president of the French committee of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). “Forests burn more or less depending on flammability. In Canada, there are a lot of pines: they are a species of tree that burns quickly and quickly. We don’t necessarily have the same type of forests in France. We have a diversity of trees. Our species are less flammable, they are richer in water,” explains this specialist in the preservation of the environment and biodiversity.

However, Europe is not spared. Greece in particular was particularly affected last summer by fires fueled by weather conditions. In 2023, forest fires have destroyed the equivalent of twice the surface area of ​​Luxembourg. And 2024 doesn’t look much better: 1,200 fires have already been recorded since the start of the year in the European Union, according to data recorded by the IUCN. This is almost twice as much as ten years ago.

Read also: Why France is spared from forest fires at the start of summer 2023

Avoid monoculture

The main cause ? “Increased temperatures, droughts and heatwave peaks create a much greater risk than previously had,” underlines Maud Lelievre. Cathy Clerbau, research director at the CNRS, specialist in the analysis of satellite data, which follows the smoke from forest fires, also notes that near the North Pole, where the rise in temperature is particularly marked on the globe, for around ten years, forest fires “start earlier and stay longer”. “Ten years ago, there was a fire in Alaska during the summer, or a fire in Siberia. In recent years, it is very intensive, as in 2020 in California and last summer in Canada, drier, more desert regions, where vegetation burns easily. »

Faced with this, forest experts recommend avoiding monoculture. “This is part of the solutions we advocate for forests: having diversified stands of trees,” underlines Maud Lelievre.

Not to mention that you have to be more vigilant. Experts estimate that 90% of forest fires are linked to human activity (abandoned waste, cigarette butts, work, etc.) and could therefore be avoided.

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