Title: The Emissions of Greenhouse Gases from Forest Fires in the Mediterranean Region
Authors: PALUMBO Ilaria
Publication Year: 2007
JRC N°: JRC37666
URI: http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/handle/JRC37666
Type: PhD Theses
Abstract: Forest fires occur regularly in the Mediterranean Basin affecting several hundred thousands hectares every year. Most of fires, about 90% of the total, are human-induced. A relevant effect of this burning activity is the emission of greenhouse gases which has been recognised as an important issue by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol. Although it is crucial to have reliable information about the fire emissions, current estimates are still affected by high uncertainties mostly due to the inaccuracy of the data used in the analysis. The major contribution to the level of uncertainty is given by the information about the burned biomass. Therefore in this study a recent method for the estimation of the burned biomass is applied by using satellite remote sensing. The original approach has been developed in the tropical region and is based on the radiant energy emitted during the burning of vegetation (Fire Radiative Power, FRP). It has been shown that the FRP is linearly related to the amount of burned biomass. This research activity provides for the first time provides an assessment of the FRP in the forest fires of a Mediterranean ecosystem. The original method is therefore implemented to become applicable in this specific environment. The analysis has been carried out on three case studies by using the satellite imagery from the SEVIRI (Spinning Enhanced Visible and Infra-Red Imager) geostationary sensor on board the Meteosat Second Generation platform. A fire detection algorithm has been developed by applying a multispectral approach which uses the mid (3-5 μm) and thermal (10-12 μm) infrared bands. The identification of actve fires is essential for the application of the FRP method. The emitted energy is derived for each active fire during its whole duration so that the total radiant energy emitted is quantified (Fire Radiative Energy, FRE). The amount of burned biomass is estimated from the FRE by using the relation derived from previous studies carried out in the tropical area. It is assumed that the equation is also valid for the Mediterranean ecosystems since it is independent of the vegetation type. In addition to the satellite analysis the assessment has been integrated with field data collected from the study sites. The information from the field has been used to evaluate the accuracy of the estimates of burned biomass derived from the FRE. The results showed the feasibility of using the SEVIRI sensor for fire monitoring despite its low spatial resolution. The comparison of the FRE estimates with those derived from the field showed good agreement. Differences vary between 36% and 3% indicating a lower uncertainty when compared to that of the current methods used to estimate burned biomass. This result demonstrates that the FRP approach is applicable in the Mediterranean region and thus providing significant improvements in the estimates of fire emissions in its ecosystems. The GHG emissions have been quantified by using the burned biomass estimates derived from the FRE and from the field data. Their amounts can influence substantially the effects of air pollution on human health at local scale and can also contribute to climate change on a broader scale.
JRC Directorate:Sustainable Resources

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