The Human and Physical Determinants of Wildfires and Burnt Areas in Israel

Noam Levin*, Naama Tessler, Andrew Smith, Clive McAlpine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Wildfires are expected to increase in Mediterranean landscapes as a result of climate change and changes in land-use practices. In order to advance our understanding of human and physical factors shaping spatial patterns of wildfires in the region, we compared two independently generated datasets of wildfires for Israel that cover approximately the same study period. We generated a site-based dataset containing the location of 10,879 wildfires (1991–2011), and compared it to a dataset of burnt areas derived from MODIS imagery (2000–2011). We hypothesized that the physical and human factors explaining the spatial distribution of burnt areas derived from remote sensing (mostly large fires, >100 ha) will differ from those explaining site-based wildfires recorded by national agencies (mostly small fires, <10 ha). Small wildfires recorded by forestry agencies were concentrated within planted forests and near built-up areas, whereas the largest wildfires were located in more remote regions, often associated with military training areas and herbaceous vegetation. We conclude that to better understand wildfire dynamics, consolidation of wildfire databases should be achieved, combining field reports and remote sensing. As nearly all wildfires in Mediterranean landscapes are caused by human activities, improving the management of forest areas and raising public awareness to fire risk are key considerations in reducing fire danger.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)549-562
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank the following people who helped us with data collection for generating the GIS dataset of wildfires: Alon Halutzy, Alon Levy, Amotz Dafni, Chanoch Zoref, David Avlagon, Gil Sapir, Gal Vine, Hava Lahav, Hezi Levi, Israel Tauber, John Woodcock, Lior Cohen, Menachem Moshe, Menachem Fried, Naftali Gedalyahu, Natan Elbaz, Ofer Beeri, Rafael Piton, Shay Levy, Shimon Harush, Sharon Tal, Tzvika Avni, Yehuda Nisan, and Zeev Shabtai. The JNF provided aerial photographs and other valuable data. We thank Noam Halfon and Amit Savir from the Israeli Meteorological Service for providing us with the monthly gridded datasets of rainfall and of maximum temperature.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


  • Fire ignition
  • Fire propagation
  • GIS
  • Mediterranean
  • Remote sensing
  • Wildfires


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