A wildfire is an uncontrolled vegetation fire which requires a decision or action regarding suppression. Wildfires can have devastating impacts for people, property, industry, infrastructure, and the environment. Wildfires in forests make up a small proportion of all incidents, and often originate outside the forest boundary, but their impacts can be disproportionately large and costly to forest owners, society and the environment.

Wildfire risk will increase with climate change due to higher air temperatures and lower relative humidity in spring and more frequent heatwaves and droughts in the summer. The risk of wildfire could double in a 2C global temperature increase scenario and quadruple in a 4C scenario. The combination of higher surface fuel loads and climate change will create longer and more dangerous fire seasons in future.

Wildfire hazards and risks related to new and existing woodland can be reduced with good practice in forest planning. Wildfire prevention work, including good forest planning, can reduce the likelihood of wildfires occurring, small incidents escalating into large incidents, and the severity of damage and impacts if they do occur. Planning and preparation can aid fire suppression and minimise response times.

The UK Forestry Standard (UKFS) advises that managers should plan for forest resilience whilst considering the risks to the woodland, and specifically the risk from fire.

Briefing note

The briefing note supports forest owners, planners, and managers in Scotland to implement the UK Forestry Standard guidance in a Scottish context, to understand the wildfire risk to the forests they manage, and how to reduce this risk through good practice in forest design and planning.

The research was commissioned through ClimateXChange and the findings are published as a Scottish Forestry Information Note, available on the Scottish Forestry website at the link below.

Information Note: Forest Planning to minimise wildfire risk in Scotland