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Forest fires Croatia

Forest fires in numbers

In the past ten years there were 330 fires and 19.164 ha of forests and woodland area was burnt down on average in Croatia (1).

In Croatia the forests in the karst region of the Croatian Adriatic coast, where the plant cover is mainly consists of the Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis) and evergreen maquia, are extremely fragile. The largest number of fires in period 1996-2004 was recorded during summer months of 2000, i.e. 590 fires that affected 66,785 ha of forest and forest land (2). 

In the summer of 2007, heat waves hit southern and central Europe. Dry conditions helped trigger fire breakouts throughout the region, and several people were reported dead directly from the fire, including 12 fire fighters encircled by flames in Croatia (9).

The Croatian Adriatic coast, particularly the islands, is a typical example of an area where the common interconnection between water (precipitation) and fire is fully expressed. Generally, in summer, the number of fires and burned areas increases from the north to the south, as well as from the inland to the coast and islands, while in winter and early spring it is vice versa. Also, the precipitation amount is decreased from north to south and from inland to islands (8).

The most endangered areas are the islands, among them particularly middle Dalmatian islands. Results of global and regional models indicate that the largest changes could be expected in the coastal southern part of the Adriatic (8).


Forest fire danger, length of the fire season, and fire frequency and severity are very likely to increase in the Mediterranean (3), and will lead to increased dominance of shrubs over trees (4).

Dry weather and damaged ecosystem with accumulation of dead biomass increase the risk of forest fires and therefore increased climate variability will augment the risk of forest fires (5). In addition, forest fires are expected to encourage the spread of invasive species which in turn, have been shown to fuel more frequent and more intense forest fires (6).

An indication of the forest fire risk under the future climate scenarios has been calculated (6). Under both A2 and B2 scenarios, fire risk is shown to increase nearly everywhere in the Mediterranean region, especially in inland locations. The southern Mediterranean is at risk of forest fire all year round. In the Iberian Peninsula, northern Italy and over the Balkans, the period of extreme fire risk lengthens substantially. The only region that shows little change in fire risk is in the southeastern Mediterranean.

Projections of forest fire risk in 2030-2060 compared with 1961-1990 suggest that (6):

  • The increase is higher during the summer, with maximum increase in August in the North Mediterranean inland;
  • Balkans, Maghreb, North Adriatic, Central Spain, and Turkey are the most affected regions;
  • The south of France is as strongly affected as Spain, but only in August and September;
  • The islands of Crete, Sardinia, Sicily (southernmost Italy too), Peloponnese, and Cyprus see no increase or decrease. Cyprus may even see a small decrease every month;
  • There will be 2 to 6 additional weeks of fire risk everywhere, except for the south of Italy and Cyprus. The maximum increase is again inland (Spain, Maghreb, Balkans, North Italy, and Central Turkey), where at least an additional month with risk of fire is expected. A significant proportion of this increase in fire risk is actually extreme fire risk;
  • The south of France, Crete, and the coastal area of the rest of Mediterranean Region also show a significant increase in the number of days with fire risk (1-4 weeks), but not in the number of extreme fire risk.

Adaptation strategies

Major funding has also been put into increasing the capacity to combat forest fires in Europe. For example, Italy has Europe’s largest fleet of aircraft and helicopters, and has on several occasions loaned out its planes to France and Spain. The high level of preparedness requires significant resources, but has shown good results: the year 2000 saw 6,600 fires destroy 58,000 hectares of forest, while almost the same number of fires in 2006 only destroyed 16,000 hectares. Protezione Civile considers itself to have a successful organisation with a high level of preparedness and great capacity to handle the effects of climate change (7).


The references below are cited in full in a separate map 'References'. Please click here if you are looking for the full references for Croatia.

  1. Republic of Croatia, Ministry of Environmental Protection and Physical Planning (2001)
  2. Republic of Croatia, Ministry of Environmental Protection, Physical Planning and Construction (2006)
  3. Santos et al. (2002); Pausas (2004); Moreno (2005); Pereira et al. (2005); Moriondo et al. (2006), all in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
  4. Mouillot et al. (2002), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
  5. Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea of Italy (2007)
  6. Giannakopoulos et al. (2005)
  7. Swedish Commission on Climate and Vulnerability (2007)
  8. Republic of Croatia, Ministry of Environmental Protection, Physical Planning and Construction (2010)
  9. USAID, in: Tamer et al. (2008)