15-10-2008EFE

More than thirty per cent of Balearic land that has been affected by fire in the past thirty years has been affected more than once, and in some cases up to five times. A remote-sensing analysis by geographer Joan Bauzá Llinas has revealed that there have been 56 fires affecting more than 50 hectares and that these equate to 80% of the land where there have been fires over the past thirty years. His study, which looks at recurring fires, finds that for larger fires of more than 500 hectares the existence of sloping land has been evident in a third of these. 

In terms of how fires are distributed by municipality, Arta, with over 5,000 hectares, has been the most affected, while its neighbour, Capdepera, has the highest instance of recurring fires - up to five. These two municipalities, together with Andratx, Calvia and Sant Joan de Labritja in Ibiza, account for just over three-quarters of the land that has been affected by fire.

An analysis of the two major fires in Andratx - La Trapa in 1994 and Sa Coma Calenta (2013) - finds that the first of these claimed 1,247 hectares, while the second affected 2,138 hectares. In terms of regeneration between these two fires, analysis of eighteen satellite images shows, because of either lack of vegetation or of low levels of it, that abundant vegetation did not return, despite the time between the two incidents.

The government’s directorate for natural areas and biodiversity has said that remote-sensing satellite images provide a good tool for mapping forest fires and enable the identification of areas at the greatest risk and so where priority measures should apply. In addition, they show that the distribution of fires follow an aggregate pattern and with few fires being responsible for the most land that is burned. The study, concludes the directorate, will assist in the greater understanding of wildfires in the Balearics and so in planning preventative measures, extinguishing them and enabling regeneration of vegetation.

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