Risk of forest fires to increase

Greece’s lethal forest fires of last year are set to become the norm across the Mediterranean, thanks to climate change, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) warned yesterday. Nearly 70 people were killed and 150,000 hectares of forest burnt to the ground in last August’s fires, which were exacerbated by failings in the emergency services for fighting fires. «The most immediate and obvious repercussion of climate change for the Mediterranean forests is an increase in fires, which will also become more intense and widespread,» a regional official from the WWF, Nora Berahmouni, said at an Athens conference. The meeting of more than 30 experts on the subject agreed unanimously that higher temperatures, prolonged drought and fierce storms would leave the forests more combustible. Berahmouni called for action before it was too late to halt a «vicious cycle» where less forest coverage due to climate change risks exacerbating the effects of global warming. «Protecting forests must also now mean allowing them to adapt to global warming,» said Greek forester Aristotle Papageorgiou, who issued an appeal for both more money and a root-and-branch reorganization of the entire system of fighting forest fires. (AFP)

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