Articles | Volume 11, issue 12
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 11, 3343–3358, 2011
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 11, 3343–3358, 2011

Research article 21 Dec 2011

Research article | 21 Dec 2011

The history and characteristics of the 1980–2005 Portuguese rural fire database

M. G. Pereira2,1, B. D. Malamud3, R. M. Trigo2, and P. I. Alves4 M. G. Pereira et al.
  • 1Centre for Research and Technology of Agro-Environment and Biological Sciences (CITAB), University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, Vila Real, Portugal
  • 2CGUL, Centro de Geofísica da Universidade de Lisboa, Lisboa, Portugal
  • 3Department of Geography, Kings College London, UK
  • 4AFN, Autoridade Florestal Nacional, Lisboa, Portugal

Abstract. We focus here on a mainland Continental Portuguese Rural Fire Database (PRFD) that includes 450 000 fires, the largest such database in Europe in terms of total number of recorded fires in the 1980–2005 period. In this work, we (a) list the most important factors for triggering and controlling the fire regime in mainland Continental Portugal, (b) describe the dataset's production, (c) discuss procedures adopted to identify and correct different fire data inconsistencies, creating a modified PRFD which we use here and make available as Supplement, (d) explore some basic temporal and completeness properties of the data. We find that the dataset's minimum measured burnt areas have changed with time between AF = 0.1 ha (1980–1990), AF = 0.01 ha (1991–1992), and AF = 0.001 ha (1992–2005), with varying degrees of completeness down to these values. These changes in minimum area measured are responsible for greater numbers of fires being recorded. A relatively small number of large fires in the PRFD are responsible for the majority of the burnt area. For example, fires with AF > 100 ha represent about 1% of all fire records but 75% of total burnt area. Finally, we consider for each Continental Portugal district and for the 26-yr period, the total number of rural fires and area burnt in forests and shrublands, each normalized by district areas. We find that the highest numbers of fires per unit area are in highly populated districts, and that the largest fraction of burnt area is in forested areas, coinciding with large parcels of continuous forests (predominantly rural and moderately urban areas).