Managing Wildfire Risk in Mosaic Landscapes: A Case Study of the Upper Gata River Catchment in Sierra de Gata, Spain


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Fire prevention and suppression approaches that exclusively rely on silvicultural measures and containment infrastructure have become increasingly ineffective in stopping the spread of wildfires. As agroforestry landscape mosaics consisting of a mix of different land cover and use types are considered less prone to fire than forests, approaches that support the involvement of rural people in agriculture and forestry activities have been proposed. However, it is unknown whether, in the current socio-economic context, these land-use interventions will nudge fire-prone landscapes towards more fire-resistant ones. We report on a case study of the Gata river catchment in Sierra de Gata, Spain, which is a fire-prone area that has been a pilot site for Mosaico-Extremadura, an innovative participatory fire-risk-mitigation strategy. Our purpose is to assess the efficacy of project interventions as "productive fuel breaks" and their potential for protecting high-risk areas. Interventions were effective in reducing the flame length and the rate of spread, and almost 40% of the intervention area was in sub-catchments with high risk. Therefore, they can function as productive fuel breaks and, if located strategically, contribute to mitigating wildfire risk. For these reasons, and in view of other economic and social benefits, collaborative approaches for land management are highly recommended.
wildfire, risk assessment, agroforestry, landscape approach, forest management, firebreak
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