The risk of forest fires in the province of Concepción would be more than 60%


Christmas Eve 2022. Once again the Valparaíso region turned red. This time, the hills adjacent to the city of Viña del Mar were the scene of a gruesome fire that came down from the hills, burning not only more than 120 hectares of vegetation, but also claiming hundreds of lives.

Houses in ruins, anguish and pain are the effects of forest fires, which unfortunately occur in the summer. In this context, the Laboratory of Landscape Ecology (LEP UdeC), an entity of the University of Concepción with extensive experience in the conservation of natural ecosystems and the restoration of degraded landscapes, has applied a Forest Fire Risk Assessment Model, developed in Spain for topographic and climatic conditions similar to those of the province of Concepción.

The timeless study, that is, which corresponds to the Photography of the study area when mapping the model variables, takes into account natural factors, such as fuel load and vegetation moisture, obtained from satellite imagery. Also included are the topography and radiation exposure that the terrain has. Among the anthropic factors, ie those produced by man, there are the proximity to roads, power lines and railway lines.

creepy figures

“The results obtained by the model show that the municipalities of San Pedro de la Paz, Chiguayante and Talcahuano are the ones with the least areas prone to the occurrence of fires. In contrast, Penco, Concepción and Tomé present a high risk of forest fires, occupying 69%, 67% and 66% of their surface respectively, with a high level of threat”.

Diego Muñoz Miranda, Project Engineer of the LEP UdeC, thus summarizes the numbers which are explained by the massive presence of forest plantations and exotic shrubs, which, due to their flammability and continuity in the municipalities, favor the spread of forest fires.

In this sense, Rodrigo Fuentes Robles, researcher at LEP UdeC, points out that “it is important to work on a policy that generates landscapes more resilient to forest fires, avoiding the continuity of forest plantations through a mosaic of different land uses .” He also points out that environmental education is relevant so that people take up the consequences of being affected by forest fires. “It is essential to make the population aware of the importance of protecting biodiversity, since a series of goods and services derive from it which are an essential part of human life”.

For his part, Dr. Cristian Echeverría Leal, director of the LEP UdeC, is emphatic in explaining that the planning of heterogeneous landscapes is urgent, to face climate and ecological crisis scenarios. “This is how the coalescence of modified ecosystems breaks down, especially in areas close to human settlements.”

“Maintaining and restoring creeks with native vegetation, recovering a heterogeneous mosaic of natural and modified ecosystems are some of the strategies we could consider to reduce the risk of fire spread in metropolitan landscapes,” explains the academic.

It is worth mentioning that a red alert was raised a few days ago, which saw the municipalities of Hualqui and Chiguayante waiting for a forest fire on Cerro Manquimávida. This is the same place where in 2020 an accident slipped in the upper part of the hills, threatening not only populated sectors along the route that connects that municipality with Concepción.

According to the data obtained that year, through a survey conducted by the UdeC LEP, the total area affected by the fire corresponded to approximately 1,102 hectares and of these, approximately 52% corresponded to exotic plantations and 30% to scrub. mainly gorse. Similarly, the fire consumed 15% of the native forest present in the Nonguén National Park (at that time, in the National Reserve category), a unit that protects important species of Chilean flora and fauna.

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