Conference Conclusions

The 1st International Scientific Conference on
"Fires in Mediterranean Forests:  Prevention - Supression - Soil Erosion - Reforestation"

Athens, Greece, 3 - 6 February 1999

(IFFN No. 20 - March 1999,p. 88-90)

The protection of natural forest ecosystems reflects the cultural level of a people and of a country and it should, therefore, be a first priority issue for the Mediterranean countries.

Forest fires and Mediterranean forest ecosystems have co-existed for millennia and they will continue to do so. There is, however, a continuous change in the balance between them and with a tendency for an increase in forest fires and a reduction in forests. This is mainly the result of human activities. Mediterranean forests are restored nearly completely after a fire if they are protected from human activities. Consequently, forest protection is not accomplished just by putting out the fire.

During recent decades, there has been a dramatic increase in both the number of fires and the area burnt. This is one of the main reasons for the initiative of UNESCO to organize this Conference.

The conclusions of the Conference are the following:

The participants of the Conference also agreed on and accepted the following special declarations:

  1. The Conference expresses its sympathy for the extensive destruction of the Greek forests, due to the large wildfires during the summer of 1998. The losses of human lives, and the environmental and socioeconomic disaster have deeply concerned the international community and, especially, Mediterranean countries. As a result, the responsible authorities of Mediterranean countries are called to take, as soon as possible, all the appropriate political and organizational measures that will ensure the utilization of all the existing long-term experience in forest fire control of all the organizations and Services involved, in order to avoid similar biblical disasters of the Mediterranean forest wealth in the future.

  2. The Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC) was established in 1998 and is currently co-sponsored, among others, by UNESCO, the IDNDR and several international fire research programmes, and cooperates with UN-ECE/FAO and FAO Silva Mediterranea. The overall goal of the GFMC is to facilitate information exchange and decision support at an international level by providing near real-time fire monitoring, archive data and other relevant information. Mediterranean countries are urged to actively contribute to continuously improve the information and data flow to the GFMC in order to create a most complete fire information system, to share expertise and to contribute to common international action programmes in fire management and policy development.

IFFN No. 20