The Sierra Bermeja fire will ‘seriously’ increase possibility of flooding in Spain’s Estepona, expert warns

THE Sierra Bermeja fire, which raged through almost 10,000 hectares of land and claimed the life of an Infoca firefighter, will ‘seriously’ increase the possibility of flooding in Estepona, Malaga expert forewarns.

According to Antonio Gallegos, associate professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Malaga, the Sierra Bermeja fire, considered the worst wildfire in the province of Malaga in 30 years, has not only destroyed 10,000 hectares of land and claimed the life of an Infoca firefighter, but the additional ‘the loss of soil’ in one of the richest botanical enclaves in Andalucia will result in the ‘immediate risk of flooding on the coast.’

According to a study carried out by Gallegos, as a consequence of the fire, 1,320,000 tonnes of soil could be lost in three municipalities over the next year, almost twice the potential loss of soils under normal conditions.

For the Malaga province, as a whole, it will mean an increase in soil losses of 2%.

“This is probably the most serious consequence after the fire, because although the recovery of the forest mass is relatively fast in Mediterranean species, the regeneration of the soils is a much slower process, taking several dozen years,” Gallegos said.

With the arrival of autumn, the first rainfalls of the season will threaten to flood Estepona and surrounding areas because the vegetation cover, which has a great capacity to soak up precipitation and mitigate the risks of torrential rains, is no longer there.

Gallego estimates that the infiltration capacity of the burned area has been drastically reduced, going from 112.8 l/m2 to only 14.6.

“This means that, before the fire, only storms with more than 112 litres per square metre generated runoff, but from now on, any rain that exceeds 14 liters will generate runoff. As a result, the frequency and severity of flooding will be much higher. And the risks will only begin to fade when the forest and the soils recover,” Gallegos added.

According to Gallego, hydrological-forest correction tasks are a must in the coming months to help recover the forest and reduce the loss of soil and with it, try to prevent flooding on the Costa del Sol.


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