, Volume 63, Issue 3, pp 337-350

Changes in Fire and Climate in the Eastern Iberian Peninsula (Mediterranean Basin)

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Abstract

Fire is a dominant ecological factor in Mediterranean ecosystems, and changes in the fire regime can have important consequences for the stability of our landscapes. In this framework I asked firstly, what is the trend in fire number and area burned in the eastern Iberian Peninsula, and then, to what extent is the inter-annual variability of fires determined by climatic factors. To answer these questions I analysed the meteorological data (temperature and precipitation) from 350 stations covering the eastern Iberian Peninsula (1950–2000), and the fire records for the same area (historical data, 1874–1968, and data from recent decades, 1968–2000). The results suggested a slight tendency towards decreasing summer rainfall and a clear pattern of increasing annual and summer temperatures (on average, annual temperatures increased 0.35 °C per decade from 1950 to 2000). The analysis of fire records suggested a clear increase in the annual number of fires and area burned during the last century; however, in the last three decades the number of fires also increased but the area burned did not show a clear trend. For this period the inter-annual variability in area burned was significantly related to the summer rainfall, that is, in wet summers the area burned was lower that in dry summers. Furthermore, summer rainfall was significantly cross-correlated with summer area burned for a time-lag of 2 years, suggesting that high rainfall may increase fuel loads that burn 2 years later.