Increasing extremes of heat and drought associated with recent severe wildfires in southern Greece

Dimitrios Sarris, Anastasia Christopoulou, Eleni Angelonidi, Nikos Koutsias, Peter Z. Fulé, Margarita Arianoutsou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations

Abstract

Mountains of the northern Mediterranean basin face two major threats under global change. Aridity and available fuel are both expected to increase because of climatic and land-use changes, increasing fire danger. There may already be signs of such effects in the case of the Pinus nigra and Abies cephalonica forests on Mt. Taygetos (southern Greece). We reconstructed climate (mid- to late-fire-season drought) using tree-rings for the last 150 years and compared it with the mountain's fire history reconstructed from P. nigra fire scars. Seven, out of the ten, large fires Mt. Taygetos experienced were associated with below-normal precipitation (P) or above-normal maximum temperature (T max). The largest fires occurred in late summer of 1879, 1944, 1998, and 2007. However, only the recent fires (1998 and 2007) had both low P and high T max, also confirmed from long-term meteorological data. The synergy between climate and fuel availability may explain the very high intensity of 1998 and 2007 fires that burned mostly as stand-replacing crown fires. The other two large fire events (1879 and 1944) most likely occurred under reduced availability in burning fuel and were related to above-normal T max. Our findings are among the first based on long-term and site-specific empirical data to support the prediction that Mediterranean mountainous areas will face a very large threat from wildfires in the twenty-first century, if socioeconomic changes leading to land abandonment and thus burning fuel accumulation are combined with the drought intensification projected for the region under global warming.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1257-1268
Number of pages12
JournalRegional Environmental Change
Volume14
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2014

Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Climate reconstruction
  • Land-use change
  • Mediterranean
  • Mountain
  • Tree-rings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change

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