In the countries of the Mediterranean Basin, including Cyprus, fires are considered one of the major agents which contribute to the degradation and reduction of forests. Today, however, the protection of forests against fires has been given a top priority. The sustainable management practised in Cyprus is concerned primarily with protection and conservation.
Forests in Cyprus
Forests (and other forest land) in Cyprus cover an area of 175,398 ha which is 19% of the total land area. State forests (and other forest land) cover an area of 161,820 ha which is 92% of the total area (Fig.1). It should be noted, however, that only half of the area can be classified as high forest.
State forests are classified into the following vegetation types: Pinus brutia, Pinus nigra, Cedrus brevifolia, reforestation, garrique or bare land, shrubs (Quercus ainifolia, etc.), maquis, and Eucalyptus spp. Table 1 shows the indicative area of each vegetation type.
Tab.1. State forest land vegetation types in Cyprus
Pinus Nigra 3.0 48.0 4,827 Cedrus Brevifolia 0.5 48.5 814 Reforestation 21.0 69.5 33,823 Garique or Bare Land 6.0 75.5 10,239 Shrubs (Querqus Alnifolia, etc.) 5.0 80.5 7,920 Maquis 16.5 97.0 26,976 Eucalyptus 1.0 98.0 1,453 Other Use 2.0 100.0 3,334 Total
Forest Fire Statistics
The term forest fire includes:
all fires which break out in State forests;
forest fires which break out on other land
– the fires that are up to 1 km away from the forest delimitation line. – certain other cases e.g. fires which break out in private forests.
Data are retained on all three cases. The statistics reported, however, are limited to the forest fires which break out on state forest and from fires which break out in other land and only to those which include forest land in the burned area. Statistics are compiled in Tables 2, 3, and 4 and in Figures 2,3, and 4. Figure 2 presents a basic analysis of the causes. Table 2 and Figure 3 present the number of fires and burned area per year since 1886. Table 3 presents the number of fires by burned area per month for years 1985-1993. Table 4 does the same, but per day of the week instead of month. Figure 4 presents the number of fires by attack time (1985-93).
Fig.2. Basic analysis of the causes of forest fires in Cyprus (will be added later!)
Facts and conclusions
From these statistics a number of inferences and conclusions can be drawn. We point out the following ones:
Statistics clearly demonstrate that forest fires are caused by human activities. Considering the number of fires, the percentage for human causes is 84%. Considering the burned area, however, this percentage is as high as 99,5%. Now, among human activities negligence is ranked first (69%).
Although there is a relationship between the number of fires and the burned area, this relationship is not strong. The political situation is one of the main reasons which makes this relationship weaker. Let us take 1974 as a key example of a year with political instability. Though there were only 42 fires in that year, the burned area was 25,900 ha which is the largest figure the island has ever experienced.
Tab.2. Number of fires and burned area per year in Cyprus(1886-1993)
Vegetation TypeArea (%)Area (in ha) Pinus brutia 45 72434 Pinus nigra 3 4827 Cedrus brevifolia 0,5 814 Reforestration 21 33823 Garique or bare Land 6 10239 Shrubs (Quercus alnifolia, etc.) 5 7920 Maquis 16,5 26976 Eucalyptus 1 1453 Other Use 2 3334 Total 100 161820
Fig.3. Number of fires and burned area per year in Cyprus(1886-1993) (will be added later!)
If we take 1960 as a reference year, that is since independence, there is a trend for the number of forest fires to decrease.
In 1990 and 1992, the burned area was only 9 ha which is the lowest recorded figure.
The forest fire season is eight (8) months long extending from April to November. May is the worst month in both the number of fires and in the burned area. The presence of easily flammable material like grass in May explains the large number of fires, while the occurrence of strong winds during this month accounts for the large burned area.
Although the number of fires seems to be evenly distributed during the week the same is not true for the burned area which appears to have two peaks; the first peak is on Sunday and is higher than the second one on Wednesday.
Figure 4 clearly demonstrates the capability of the Department of Forests to attack forest fires in their early stages. The attack time for 93% of the fires was less than 30 minutes.
Tab.3. Number of fires and burned area by month in Cyprus(1985-1993)
MonthBurned Area (ha)Total<1.1-1010-100<100No. of FiresBurned Area (ha) January 2 1 0 0 3 1,3 February 2 0 0 0 2 0 March 3 1 0 0 4 4,3 April 6 1 0 1 8 168,8 May 18 7 2 1 28 700,1 June 11 5 2 0 18 119,6 July 12 5 5 1 23 407,6 August 14 4 1 0 19 47,3 September 16 4 0 0 20 13,5 October 14 3 0 0 17 14 November 13 2 0 0 15 11,4 December 1 0 0 0 1 0,1
Tab.4. Number of fires and burned area by day in Cyprus(1985-1993)