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The Effect of Prescribed Burning in Decreasing Wildfire Extent in Portugal †

Forest Research Centre, School of Agriculture, University of Lisbon, Tapada da Ajuda, 1349-017 Lisboa, Portugal
Centre for the Research and Technology of Agro-Environmental and Biological Sciences (CITAB), University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, Quinta de Prados, 5000-801 Vila Real, Portugal
School of Technology and Management, Polytechnic of Leiria, Apartado 4163, 2411-901 Leiria, Portugal
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Presented at the Third International Conference on Fire Behavior and Risk, Sardinia, Italy, 3–6 May 2022.
Environ. Sci. Proc. 2022, 17(1), 36;
Published: 9 August 2022
(This article belongs to the Proceedings of The Third International Conference on Fire Behavior and Risk)


Wildfire management in southern Europe is increasingly challenged by the combination of fire weather, flammable landscapes, rugged terrain, and the wildland–urban interface. Prescribed burning (PB) is a promising fuel reduction treatment, but evidence of its effectiveness in reducing wildfire extent in Europe remains scarce. Using 36 years of fire mapping in Portugal, we aimed to assess PB’s effectiveness in reducing wildfire extent. We quantified PB–wildfire encounter probability through survival analysis and evaluated the unburned fraction of PB patches upon wildfire encounter as a function of fuel-, topography-, treatment-, and wildfire-related characteristics, using generalized linear modeling and regression tree analysis. We used linear and generalized linear mixed models to quantify the annual wildfire extent decrease due to PB in nine selected sub-regions, i.e., PB leverage. Larger PB units survived more wildfire encounters, which were frequent (42% of the total) and happened soon after treatment (75% of the cases in the first 4 years). However, the unburned fraction was very low and was determined mostly by wildfire behavior. Wildfire extent was variable among the study regions, but the annual PB effort was typically less than 0.5% of the landscape. Wildfire extent was dominated by fire weather and ignition density but decreased with past fire extent. This resulted in an estimated PB leverage value of 0.10, i.e., 10 ha of treatment are currently required to decrease wildfire area by one ha, which is consistent with the PB-wildfire encounter findings. Our results highlight the need to scale up the PB effort in Portugal. Although the treatment location favors encounters, PB units should be larger and distributed in the landscape such that the wildfire spread is disrupted inside and around treatments, thus reducing its final size and increasing leverage. Our work provides information to fire management agencies towards improved planning and development of synergies between fuel management and fire suppression operations.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, P.M.F.; Methodology, D.A.D.; software, D.A.D.; validation, P.M.F. and J.M.C.P.; formal analysis, D.A.D. and C.G.R.; writing-original draft preparation, D.A.D.; writing-review and editing, C.G.R., J.M.C.P. and P.M.F.; supervision, C.G.R., J.M.C.P. and P.M.F. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This study was carried out in the framework of Forest Research Centre (CEF), Lisbon, Portugal (UIDB/00239/2020); and Centre for the Research and Technology of Agro-environmental and Biological Sciences (CITAB), Vila Real, Portugal (UIDB/04033/2020). This research was funded by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) through Ph.D. Grant PD/BD/142961/2018, funded by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education, and by the European Social Fund—Operational Program Human Capital within the 2014–2020 EU Strategic Framework and also through doctoral program SUSFOR (PD/00157/2012). JMC Pereira participation was partially supported by research project FIRE-MODSAT II (PTDC/ASP-SIL/28771/2017).

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.
Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

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MDPI and ACS Style

Davim, D.A.; Rossa, C.G.; Pereira, J.M.C.; Fernandes, P.M. The Effect of Prescribed Burning in Decreasing Wildfire Extent in Portugal. Environ. Sci. Proc. 2022, 17, 36.

AMA Style

Davim DA, Rossa CG, Pereira JMC, Fernandes PM. The Effect of Prescribed Burning in Decreasing Wildfire Extent in Portugal. Environmental Sciences Proceedings. 2022; 17(1):36.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Davim, David A., Carlos G. Rossa, José M. C. Pereira, and Paulo M. Fernandes. 2022. "The Effect of Prescribed Burning in Decreasing Wildfire Extent in Portugal" Environmental Sciences Proceedings 17, no. 1: 36.

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