Incorporating fire-smartness into agricultural policies reduces suppression costs and ecosystem services damages from wildfires

Judit Lecina-Diaz*, Dr Chas-Amil, Adrian Regos, Angelo Sil, Nuria Aquilue, Lluis Brotons, Julia M. Touza

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In southern Europe, land abandonment and an unbalanced investment toward fire suppression instead of prevention has gradually increased wildfire risk, which calls for a paradigm change in fire management policies. Here we combined scenario analysis, fire landscape modelling, and economic tools to identify which land-use policies would reduce the expected wildfire-related losses in the Transboundary Biosphere Reserve ‘Gerês-Xurés’ (Spain-Portugal). To do so, we applied the least-cost-plus-net-value-change approach and estimated net changes in wildfire damages based on their implications for the 2010-2050 period and five ecosystem services: agriculture, pasture, timber, recreation and climate regulation. Four land-use scenarios were considered: (1) Business as Usual (BAU); (2) fire-smart, fostering more fire-resistant (less flammable) and/or fire-resilient landscapes (fire-smart); (3) High Nature Value
farmlands (HNVf), wherein the abandonment of extensive agriculture is reversed; and (4) a combination of HNVf and fire-smart. HNVf is the best scenario for suppression cost savings, but it generates the lowest net present value of societal benefits from climate regulation. In fact, the most efficient scenario with the lowest societal discounted net suppression costs and change on ecosystem services damages is the HNVf + fire-smart scenario, as it also generates suppression cost savings from agricultural expansion, and lead to a significant reduction in damages on timber and recreational benefits. Therefore, reverting land abandonment through recultivation and promoting fire-resistant tree species is the most efficient way to reduce wildfire hazard. In this sense, payments for ecosystem services should reward farmers and landowners for their role in wildfire prevention. This study improves the understanding of the financial and societal benefits derived from reducing fire suppression spending and ecosystem services damage by undertaking fire-smart land-use strategies, which can be essential to enhance local stakeholders' support for Payments of Ecosystem Services policies for wildfire prevention.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Issue number117707
Early online date28 Mar 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

© 2023 The Authors


  • economics of fire
  • land-use modelling
  • ecosystem service trade-offs
  • high nature value farmlands
  • fire-smart

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