Forest fires in Costa Rica decreased. This year the country registered the least amount of affected territory within the Protected Wild Areas (ASP) since 1998, in the so-called ‘fire season’. The 2020 season added 1,347 hectares affected within the ASPs, while this year it counted 845. Also, last year the System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) attended to 67 fires and in 2021, only 23.
Regarding the affected areas outside the ASPs, 21,836 hectares were counted, which represents 11,070 hectares less than in 2020. “Having a record of less impact by forest fires is of the utmost importance. Although this season was very positive, each year the country will have more critical seasons due to climate change, which is modifying the structure and drying conditions of the vegetation, making it easier for them to burn with extreme fire behavior”, emphasized Luis Diego Román, coordinator of SINAC’s National Fire Management Program.
Causes of fires
Vandalism, revenge, and house activities were the cause of 34% of forest fires registered in the 2021 season, followed by agricultural and pasture burning (31%), change in land use (13%) and burning of forest residues (8%). With these fires, the types of vegetation most affected at the national level are those with a low natural regeneration process, areas with grass and those with both trees and grass.
According to the authorities of the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE), the atypical rains that the country had in April -one of the most critical months-, helped to reduce the incidence; however, they also recognize the commitment of the SINAC forest firefighters, volunteers and contracted brigades.
“All of them were essential to prevent more hectares from being affected, as well as the educational prevention actions that were carried out by SINAC”, said Rafael Gutiérrez, executive director of SINAC. The provinces with the highest record of hectares affected this year are: Guanacaste, Puntarenas, and Alajuela.