After the catastrophic wildfires that engulfed North Macedonia’s forests last year, the situation with wildfire prevention in the country this year has improved drastically. During the first 6 months of 2022, 69 wildfires were registered and an area of 733.02 hectares was burned, with 4 621 cubic meters of wood damaged, the Public Enterprise (PE) “Nacionalni shumi” (National Forests) informs.
In the first half of 2022, the damage caused by the wildfires amounts to MKD43 218 277 (€702 700), and the costs for their extinguishing were MKD832 650 (€13 540). PE “National Forests” is yet to summarize the data on the damage caused by the wildfires in July and August. Yet, the rainy weather and the lower temperatures in August have contributed to a lower number of wildfires and areas damaged compared to August 2021.
As a reminder, in the last year in a period of just four months, 142 wildfires were registered and 11 420 hectares of forest areas were damaged. In a period of only 4 months, the forest wildfires have caused damages in the amount of over €37.6 million.
Last year’s infamous onslaught destroyed by far the largest forest area within the past decade. We say more and bigger wildfires only in 2012, when 19 312 hectares of forests were burned down.
However, the number of wildfires and the vegetation areas that burn are directly influencing the greenhouse gas emissions that Macedonia is producing annually. The latest data from the Ministry of Environment shows that even though the greenhouse gasses emissions in the forestry sector are an unpredictable factor in the long term, still the latest data for 2019 show a drastic increase in the carbon dioxide emissions from this sector. Unlike the year 2016, when the forestry sector emissions were 1,320.6 Gg. CO2-eq, in 2019, primarily due to the increased number of wildfires, there was an emission of hazardous gases into the atmosphere of even up to 1,634.4 Gg. CO2-eq.
With the negative balance of the forest areas burned by wildfires the previous year, the effect it has had on the climate change has yet to be evaluated, i.e. the quantities of greenhouse gases that were produced by last year’s wildfire to be calculated. In 2000, when the fires have affected larger forest areas, the greenhouse gasses emissions have climbed to a record number of 10.441,1 CO2-eq.
Conversely, the direct protection of forests and the prevention of wildfires, together with the afforestation means a larger number of healthy trees that are absorbing the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and are directly influencing the lowering of the effects caused by climate change in North Macedonia and worldwide.
The PE National Forests states they have no information about organized arsoning of the forests, but they also state there are appropriate institutions in the country that should investigate and prove that.
No rise in illegal logging this year
According to the processed data that the Sector of Forest Protection, Monitoring and Internal Control has, the PE National Forests says that the registered illegal logging this year equals the numbers for the last year.
“In the period from January to June 2022, regarding the registered illegal logging, and in accordance with processed data that the Sector of Forest Protection, Monitoring and Internal Control has, 9 382 m3 of wood was illegally cut, and the PE National Woods has filed 98 charges and 19 criminal charges for illegal logging,” informed this PE.
Otherwise, the data from the State Statistical Office (SSO) for last year shows that illegal logging has increased compared to 2020. Last year, the poachers managed to illegally cut 29,800 m3 of wood, which is 10,000 m3 more compared to 2020.