Socioeconomic determinants of forest fires in Portugal

A significant fraction of forest fires in Portugal has human origin, either because of negligence or unadjusted forest practices or as consequence of criminal actions. This paper studies the social and economic factors that may influence the occurrence and the extent of fires in Portugal. This question is particularly relevant considering the many fires occurring each year and the economic and humanitarian consequences of these fires.

The study uses data from 278 Portuguese municipalities between 2000 and 2011. The results show that the municipalities with older population and with less economic dynamism have more burnt area. These are the municipalities from the interior of Portugal showing significant land abandonment. The study also finds that these areas have fewer forest fires, but larger extent of burnt area. Often, the great problem in these municipalities is the dimension of fuel load present in the territories. Hence, this work suggests that government agencies and municipalities should work towards improving forest management.

Click here to go to the paper by Paulo Reis Mourão and Vítor Domingues Martinho.

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