Over 400,000 ha. of forests were destroyed by fire in 2019, the worst year the world has known in recent times in terms of such disasters, the European Commission’s joint research centre noted in a report released on Friday.
The report, which provides an inventory of the devastation wrought by forest fires in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, notes that a record number of protected natural areas were affected throughout the European Union in 2019.
The forests devastated by flames in the Union last year included close to half of the area under the protection of “Natura 2000,” with 159,585 ha. of precious biodiversity sites going up in flames there.
One country was particularly affected: Romania, where 242 fires destroyed a total of 73,444 ha., much of it in the Danube Delta.
Climate change clearly played a role in the intensity, duration and number of forest fires, according to the researchers, with temperatures higher than usual, and scarce rains. Among the things the report highlighted was the unusually high number of fires that broke out even before the start of the traditional forest-fire season.
Noting the horrifying scenes of fires on the West Coast of the United States, Siberia and elsewhere, European Commissioner for the Environment Virginijus Sinkevicius said Europe’s forests had also been hard hit.
“Part of the answer to ensure that this does not happen at such a devastating scale lies in protecting and managing the forests in a way to reduce their vulnerability to fires, allowing nature to also protect itself,” Sinkevicius stressed.