Pyrotragedies – a critical retrospective on the wildfire situation in Europe during July 2018

July 2018 was the month in which Europe was heavily affected by wildfire events. There where forest fires in Sweden, in Greece and even in Germany there was one major forest fire event in July 2018.  A Scots Pine Forest near Fichtenwalde was heavily affected by a fire[1], thus remembering German authorities that Germany can also  be concerned by forest fires, – and recalling the terrible souvenirs of the Forest fires of the Lüneburger Heide in summer 1975. But it was Greece which was so heavily hit by several fire events, –the 2018 Attica wildfires – the city of Mati had to face a real “pyrotragedy” to use the words of Paulo Fernandes a portugese wild fire researcher[2]. Mati has been more or less completely erased by the wildfires, a landscape of ruins and desolation and a very high dead toll – about 88 people were killed by the fires in Mati[3]. For me the pictures of the landscape of ruins of Mati called up the souvenirs of the terrible fire event of  Pedrógão Grande[4] in Portugal last year.

Working on forest fires since the beginning of my academic career in 1992, I have been one of those scientists, who are continuously warning that climate change will also increase forest fire risks[5],[6]. But I also warn, since the beginning 1990’s, when I was mapping wild fire risks in the “Garrigues de  Nîmes”[7] under the guidance of Louis Trabaud[8], Peter Frankenberg and Rainer Joha Bender[9] that californisation & rural abandonment & bushencroachment are making the coming generation of forest fires so dangerous.

Californisation[10]  is the “terminus technicus” used in francophone geography, spatial planning and forestry for urban sprawl, housing, urban – forest interface, urban wild – interface etc. But I think the difference between the different English terms is that californisation also designs  the intermix of housing and extremely high inflammable forest (or bushformations like Garrigues, Maquis, Matoral, Chaparal etc. ) and high fuel loading[11].

However what term you use, I prefer californisation, because I think it describes the landscape scenery we can see in many Mediterranean regions of the world perfectly. People want to live like “Californians” constructing their house into a “green scenery” of forests & parks, like in Santa Barbara in California. In fire prone ecosystems, and all Mediterranean ecosystems are fire prone ecosystems, housing in such scenery is just like living on “powder – keg”. A forest fire occurring in this environment is a deadly trap for people, – and this exactly happened in Mati[12]. And what happened in Mati can happen in the suburbs of Lisbon, in the suburbs of Barcelona, Nîmes, Montpellier, Marseille, in La Marsa near Tunis ,- or in California or in Australia (even in the Mediterranean part of Chile and in the Cap region in South Africa). Working since the beginning of the 1990 in western European Mediterranean basin, I known so many locations in this area, where catastrophes like these which devasted Mati in Greece could also happen.

The combination of the consequences of climate change with the cocktail of californisation & rural abandonment will provide us more deadly fires in the Mediterranean regions of Europe (and perhaps also in Central Europe, Scandinavia etc.) – and I think society should react and force the governments to adapt their spatial planning to this enforced risk to see deadly forest fires spread up in that environment, to avoid situations that can lead to such fatal forest fires scenarios as the 1949 Landes Forest Fire which was the most deadly single fire which ever happened in Europe[13]. Concerning the 2018 Attica wildfires, this was a run of different fires, according to informations I could get about the fire.

What happened in Greece in the Attica region in July 2018, what happened in Pedrógão Grande in June 2017, but also in October 2017 in Portugal, these are (or were) real “pyrotragedies” and I hope that the fire season, which is going on until the End of October (in European Mediterranean regions) will not provide us other “pyrotragedies” in the Mediterranean (or elsewhere).

But the real question is if the governments in Greece or in Portugal will learn something from these “pyrotragedies”? The 1949 Landes Forest Fire with is high dead toll of 82 people killed by the fire, – provide a real shock in France – and after this shock France has made an enormous effort of systematic planning and construction of system of “Defending Forest against Wildfire” – “Défense de la forêt contre les incendies (DFCI)[14]” – which is now considered being one of the most effective “Anti Forest Fire Defence System” of the world. Perhaps someone should write down the history of the establishment of the French anti forest fire defense system, – as I know this has never been done – because this was not only success story, but the French responsible were able to learn from their different “failures”[15]– and that is very important.

In this context also associations, like the “Forêt Méditerranéenne”, have a very important role, – just remembering all the conferences dedicated to “fire prevention & wild fire management” and also all the articles dealing with forest fire published in the revue  “Forêt Méditerranéenne”[16]. Articles published in this revue are read by the people working in the forests, – the technicians, the forest engineer in direct contact, at the “frontline” with the “wildfires”. But even this relatively effective system of forest fire management, which has been established in France, is now challenged by “climate change” as recently Thomas Curt and Thibaut Frejaville showed in a study about “Wildfire Policy in Mediterranean France”[17].

My personal opinion is that science and research cannot alone provide the solution, at least perhaps applied geography and spatial planning, because it is a societal problem – how do we deal with californisation (urban sprawl, forest & urban interface, whatever you call it) in a highly inflammable environment – environment which also has a notable charge of fuel loading.  How can we manage this highly inflammable environment including climate change processes. It seems to be very difficult to find consistent solutions for that mix of problems. I personally, after working more or less since the beginning 1990s with forest fire risks, I have not “the solution”- but at least we should be honest to people living in this environment, to tell them, that they are living on a “powder – keg”. If there are no evacuation plans (and evacuation has to be trained), if fire brigades are not well trained and have a good equipment living & housing in such a fire prone environment can become very rapidly a  deadly trap if a fire outbreak is not under control very very fast.  Very very fast means to control the fire 30 minutes after outbreak, – after that threshold of 30 minutes it’s a very hard task to avoid the fire to run out of control and evolve into a large deadly fire event.

Concerning climate change, – I guess, that what I described here for Mediterranean regions, –  we will have to face such scenarios also in Central Europe – because the californisation of landscape is also existing in Central Europe, – the intermix of vegetation with housing – and if climate change scenarios provided by climatologists are correct we will also be confronted with an higher risk of fire eclosion in Central Europe.

And what about climate change and fire risks in old world Mediterranean basin? I think it is very difficult to prove that climate change is responsible for the current fire situation in summer 2018 – or for the 2017 fires in Portugal or the Maghreb[18] – but after all the paper I have read for my profession and also my own research work[19], I am convinced that climate change will make future wild fires more dangerous for people in the Mediterranean regions all over the world in the coming years.

Christophe Neff, Grünstadt 07.08.2018

P.S.: This blogpost is a revised and augmented version of a facebook post called “some words about the current forest fire situation in Greece” which I posted on Facebook on 25.07.2018.

[1] See also „Waldbrand in Fichtenwalde. Das Inferno nebenan“ on Spiegelonline.

[2] Original citation « No dia de 23 de julho o mundo foi surpreendido por mais uma pirotragédia, desta vez nos arredos de Atenas » ,  Paulo Fernandes, published in the « Jornal de Notícias » on Monday the 30 of July 2018.

[3] See also „Grèce : un ministre démissionne après les incendies meurtriers » in Le

[4] See „Incendie de Pedrógão Grande“ in, or „ Incêndio florestal de Pedrógão Grande em 2017” in

[5] In the blogpost „Feux de forêts et lectures de paysages méditerranéens: (Écologie et biogéographie des forêts du bassin méditerranéen ; The Nature of Mediterranean Europe – an Ecological History ; Le feu dans la nature – mythes et réalité) »,published in juin2009, I remembered that i was one the first scientists, warning that climate change could lead to in increase in Forest Fire risks in Central Europe.

[6] In the blogpost “ The Fatal Forest Fire – remembering the “1949 Mega fire” in the „Forêt des Landes” (South West France)”,published in July2009,  I wrote concerning the “1949 Landes forest fire”, that this fire event could be seen as a “historical model for expected forest fires due to global warming in non-mediterranean European forests”

[7] The results of the fire risk mapping were published as a litte book in 1995 in German “Waldbrandrisiken in den Garrigues de Nîmes (Südfrankreich) : eine geographische Analyse“ (ISBN 3-923750-50-1).

[8] Louis Trabaud was of the pioniers of Mediterranean Fire Ecology. He passed away in april 2017, – July Pausas has written a necrology on this personal blog – “Homage to Louis Trabaud”.

[9] Concerning Reiner Joha Bender see also “Blognotice 08.09.2014: Quatre jours de vacances à Leucate, de très petites vacances …. »

[10] See also „Blognotice 15.08.2015: Incendies de forêt à Schramberg en Forêt-Noire et processus de californisation du paysage »

[11] See also „Californisation“ in

[12] See also the video published by SPON, showing the devastated Mati after the fire event. The video was taken by an UAV.

[13] See also „The Fatal Forest Fire – remembering the “1949 Mega fire” in the „Forêt des Landes” (South West France)

[14] See also „Défense de la forêt contre les incendies » on, even if this article is very poor.

[15] For example see  the special number of the revue forestière francaise dedicated to the fire year 1975 “RFF – SPECIAL – Les incendies de forêts – 1975 ( or in 1990  the special number “RFF – SPECIAL – Espaces forestiers… – 1990 ( of the same revue, entirely dedicated to forest fire management.

[16] Just to name two examples – in  1990 the French Mediterranean Forests were heavily affected by forest fires, especially the “Massif de Maures” had hard price to pay in this“wildfireseason”. Thus the “Forêt Méditerranéenne” dedicated special numbers of their revue “Incendies & Pin d’Alep T. XIII, n°3, 1992 (Forest fire and Aleppo Pine) and  “Feux et forêts  – Les feux de forêt et la sécheresse en 1990 T. XIII, n°1, 1992 (Fire and Forest – the forest fires and the drought of 1990) to this crucial fire year. Not only to understand what really happened on the terrain during the fire events – but also to improve “prevention”, “forest management” and “Fire defense”.

[17] See „Curt, T. & Frejaville, T: Wildfire Policy in Mediterranean France: How Far is it Efficient and Sustainable?” in “Risk       Analysis ·July 2017 DOI: 10.1111/risa.12855”

[18] See also: Blognotice 14.08.2017: Sècheresse, canicule et feux de forêts – au Maghreb aussi !

[19] Together with some colleagues we analyzed forest fire risks and climate change scenarios and the consequences for Tunisian ecosystems, see :  Neff, C., Aloui, A., El Hamrouni, A., Souissi, A., Grossmann, A. (2007): Ecosystèmes. S. 33–43. In: République Tunisienne, Ministère de l’agriculture et des ressources hydrauliques, GTZ (Coopération technique allemande) (Hrsg.): Stratégie nationale d’adaptation de l’agriculture tunisienne et des écosystèmes aux changements climatiques, Cahier 7, Rapport des groupes d’ experts.

Her name was Ruqia/ Elle s’appelait Ruqia ….

Bloming Almond tree (Prunus amygdalo-persica (West) Rehd.) 07.02.2016 near Herxheim am Berg (Germany), © Christophe Neff 07.02.2016

« Elle s’appelait Ruqia » – her name was Ruqia. That’s the beginning of a very notable commemorative address for Ruqia Hassan Mohammed, written by the French journalist Alain Frachon and published in the print edition of Le Monde of Friday the 5 February 2016. Ruqia Hassan was a citizen journalist who wrote under the nom de plume of Nissan Ibrahim about here daily life in Raqqa, which is currently ruled by the jihadists of the Islamic state. She was murdered[1] by Isis because she had the courage to witness daily live in Raqqa under the rule of jihadists[2] (the online version of the Alain Frachon text begins “Elle s’appelait Ruqia et racontait son quotidien sous la botte des djihadistes” Her name was Ruqia and she told us her daily live under the rule of the jihadists).

It’s dangerous to tell the truth about daily live in Syria   ….. in regions ruled by Bashar al-Assad  citizen journalists (as many other people) face torture and death – in regions ruled by jihadist’s it’s the same – citizen journalists (as many other people) face torture and death. The current geography of Syria is a map painted with the blood of innocent citizens, – a landscape of torture, murder, manslaughter …. a geography of beheading, crucifying, …. a desert of desperation, hunger and solitude.

When reading the memoir text of Alain Frachon I thought, – that the Le Monde should have had translated the text in English, – as they have done it in very rare occasions, as for example the report “Chemical warfare in Syria” in June 2013. So perhaps more people would know more about the tragic live of Ruqia, but also more people would know what the courageous citizen journalists of “Rakka is Being Silently Slaughtered” do – and for what they risk their live every day.

For copyright reasons it’s impossible to translate the full text of Alain Frachon report – but I think the last sentence of the memoir is worth to be completely translated “Peut-être y aura-t-il un jour une plaque, quelque part dans Rakka libérée, à la mémoire d’une jeune femme qui a défié les petites frappes de l’EI et qui portera ce nom : Ruqia Hassan Mohammed./ Perhaps one day, somewhere in Raqqa liberated, there will be a commemorative plaque, in honor of a young woman who challenged IS, – Ruqia Hassan Mohammed (free translation C.Neff).

Photo: © Christophe Neff 07.02.2016

Christophe Neff, Grünstadt the 07.02.2016

P.S.: Instead of posting of photo of Ruqia (you can find photos of her in the two articles of the Guardian I mentioned in the footnotes (1,2)) I preferred to post the picture of a blooming almond tree, which I photographed today in the vineyards of the Unterhardt between Freinsheim and Herxheim am Berg. The almond tree is in almost the whole Mediterranean world a symbol for the beginning of springtime.


Frachon, Alain (2016) : Elle s’appelait Ruqia et racontait son quotidien sous la botte des djihadistes. In Le Monde, Vendredi 5 Fevrier 2016, p. 19 (for le Monde subscribers download here).

[1] Aisha Gani and Kareem Shaheen : “Journalist Ruqia Hassan murdered by Isis after writing on life in Raqqa”, The Guardian, Tuesday 5 January 2016

[2] Homa Khaleeli, Aisha Gani Mona Mahmood and Mais al-Bayaa: Ruqia Hassan: the woman who was killed for telling the truth about Isi, The Guadian, Wednesday 20 January 2016

Vue de Grünstadt 02.04.2015: Vue sur le paysage urbain de Grünstadt

Vue de Grünstadt 16  21.03.2015 7.04Confiné pendant plusieurs jours dans une chambre de l’Hôpital de Grünstadt (Kreiskrankenhaus Grünstadt) après une opération chirurgicale au genou, j’ai essayé de prendre tous les jours une photo du paysage urbain de Grünstadt depuis mon lit d’Hôpital. Tous les jours, même tous les heures des couleurs différentes, la lumière changeant dans un paysages structuré urbain, structuré par le « Westring » – l’autoroute A 6 (d’ailleurs une des plus anciennes autoroutes allemandes), les deux églises – l’église protestante de St.Martin (clocher couleur brun-rouge de grès) et l’église catholique St. Peter (clocher couleur blanc) – au fond, les vignobles de la Unterhaardt, et parfois même à l’horizon, on peut même reconnaitre les cheminées du Großkraftwerk (centrale electrique) à Mannheim-Neckarau et ainsi que la ville de Ludwigshafen avec le grand complexe industriel de la BASF. Dans cette vue du paysage urbain de Grünstadt, la vue d’ensemble est séparée par une ligne imaginaire, où on peut reconnaitre avec un peu de « Ortskenntnis » (connaissance des lieux) la ligne de chemin de fer Grünstadt – Bad Dürkheim.

Vue de Grünstadt 9  22.03.2015 17.27

Notons que la Unterhaardt, ces coteaux à caractère subméditerranéen entre Grünstadt et Bad Dürkheim, qui est un des rares paysages allemands presque entièrement dominés par le vignoble, n’a jusqu’à présent pas d’article sur la wikipedia allemande. On trouve un peu de tout sur la Wikipédia allemande, mais sur la Unterhaardt on ne trouve absolument rien, ceci me semble assez étrange[1].

En regardant les lumières et couleurs changeantes du paysage urbain de Grünstadt, je pensais aussi à Christoph Jentsch, professeur de géographie humaine, récemment décédé qui fut un de mes maitres. Je me souviens, qu’il disait – „Landschaft ist ein Bildauschnitt, ein Blickwinkel“ – le paysage est une partie d’un tableau, un angle de vue. Donc la notion de paysage est toujours liée à l’homme, à l’inverse de l’écosystème – qui existe et qui existera sans l’intervention de l’homme. Sans la vue de l’homme sur un espace – pas de Landschaft, pas de paysage, pas de landscape. Ces paroles furent, si je me souviens bien, prononcées pendant la préparation du projet de recherche « Neuscape » – « Nested ecological understanding of changing cultural landscapes”. Comme assistant de Peter Frankenberg, à la chaire de géographie physique de l’Université de Mannheim[2], je fus chargé de préparer pour Peter Frankenberg et Christoph Jentsch en collaboration avec Shivcharn S. Dhillion[3], James Aronson, François Romane, Edouard Le Floc’h et Anne Grossmann[4] une demande de financement de la Communauté européenne pour un projet de recherche sur un transecte de paysages européens allant de la Norvège à l’Espagne du Sud, incluant des paysages en Norvège, Allemagne (Palatinat et Forêt Noire), France (Midi français incluant les garrigues de Nîmes, les Costières de Nîmes, les site Cazarils du CEFE, Corbières et Cap Leucate,) – les paysages de Montado au Portugal et des paysages espagnols de l’Andalousie méridionale. Finalement le projet ne fut jamais financé par la communauté européenne, mais à titre personnel, en préparant cette demande de financement j’ai beaucoup appris sur les paysages européens et aussi sur le fonctionnement de la fameuse DG XII pendant les années Cresson. L’acronyme du projet « Neuscape » étaient d’ailleurs librement inspiré du Netscape navigator, – qui était durant les années 1990 le navigateur web dominant. Tout cela maintenant appartient à l’histoire, mais les mots du Professeur Jentsch sur la « Landschaft » me semblent inoubliables.

Donc en prenant en photo les différents couleurs des paysages urbains de Grünstadt avec mon smartphone, je pensais à ces mots que le Professeur Jentsch avait exprimés durant les années 1990 sur les paysages et Landschaften. Beaucoup de lecture aussi, durant ces jours dans mon lit d’hôpital. Je finissais les derniers chapitres du « dictionnaire amoureux du Brésil », dont j’avais déjà parle dans Bala l’homme de la forêt. Je traversais le paysages de cimetières sous-marins avec « Edgar Bentler dit Ed » entre Hiddensee, Rügen et le Danemark (l’ile de Møn) , – dernier chapitre du roman « Kruso » de Lutz Seiler, dans lequel est thématisé le destin tragique de « Republikflüchtlinge», qui essayèrent de traverser la mer baltique pour fuir la DDR et de rejoindre le Danemark à la nage, en planche à voile, etc. et dont la fuite pour la plus grande majorité trouva une fin tragique dans les fonds de la mer baltique. Le roman de Lutz Seiler qui fut récompensé par le Uwe Johnson Literaturpreis et le Deutsche Buchpreis 2014, mériterait certainement une traduction en français.

Un autre paysage que je traversais avec l’aide d’une lecture fort intéressante, fut la carte cognitive des fonds philosophiques des pensées Poutinienes, que je découvris dans le petit livre de Michel Eltchaninoff[5] qui porte le titre programmatique « Dans la tête de Vladimir Poutine ». Ayant comparé dans une petite notice de blog publié en décembre 2013, Monsieur Poutine avec Nicolas Ier de Russie, cette lecture du livre de Michel Eltchaninoff, semble confirmer mes pensées (et même au-delà) assez sceptiques envers la politique neo-imperialiste du nouveau Tsar. Le livre finit avec ces phrases remarquables « Désormais, grâce au plan le plus nationaliste et pseudoscientifique de la philosophie russe, Poutine rend à la Russie sa vocation idéologique internationale. Le conservatisme identitaire doit devenir un phare pour tous les peuples du monde.  La mobilisation conservatrice, initiée et dirigée par le Kremlin, n’a plus de frontières. L’URSS n’était pas un pays, mais un concept. Avec Poutine, la Russie est à nouveau le nom d’une idée. » Un livre intéressant, -un livre qui mériterait une traduction anglaise, allemande, – et même au-delà. En ce qui concerne une traduction allemande potentielle du livre de Michel Eltchaninoff, celle-ci devrait être lue par tous les membres du Auswärtiger Ausschuss du Bundestag. Et pour finir je commençai les premiers chapitres de « Schubert’s Winter Journey » de IAN Bostridge, livre que j’avais découvert il y a quelques semaines dans la République des Livres – grâce au billet au titre prometteur « Schubert tel que vous ne l’avez jamais lu » – ce billet, et cela mérite d’être signalé, est ,si je suis bien renseigné, un des rares billets de Pierre Assouline, qui nous présente un livre anglais dont la traduction française se fait attendre. Mais peut être le billet enthousiaste de P.A. incitera un éditeur français ou francophone de se lancer dans la traduction de l’ouvrage.

Le jour où je sortais de l’Hôpital je découvre les premiers Forsythia de Paris (Mimosa de Paris) en fleurs à Grünstadt, -et dans mon jardin je découvre les premières branches de notre Abricotier qui commence à fleurir – le printemps semble réellement s’installer dans les paysages de la Unterhaardt. Mais ce même jour je découvrais aussi à quel point la tragédie du vol vol 4U9525 Germanwings qui s’est écrasé dans le Massif des Trois-Évêchés avait traumatisé l’Allemagne. Mais ceci est une autre histoire. D’ailleurs Dirk Kurbjuweit dans le dernier Spiegel (14/2015) a écrit un commentaire intéressant sous le titre « Ohne festen Boden – Das Flugzeugunglück beendet den Mythos von deutscher Sicherheit ». Depuis quelques jours ont passé, – l’ouragan Niklas vient de traverser l’Allemagne, mais notre Abricotier en pleines fleurs maintenant a bien résisté, – le printemps est maintenant bel et bien arrivé sur les coteaux de la Unterhaardt, même si nous risquons peut être encore de voir tomber quelques flocons de neiges pendant le week-end pascal. Mon radius d’action est encore assez limité, je viens de commencer un nouveau livre … –  « le dictionnaire amoureux de l’Alsace » de Gilles Pudlowski. C’est un livre qui nous parle avec amours des paysages alsaciens, de ses villes et villages, de ses écrivains et artistes, de son art gastronomique … un livre qui mérite encore la lecture et qui mériterait aussi une traduction et adaptation allemande, même si il y déjà été édité en 2010 – je crois même qu’une édition allemande pourrait devenir un succès commercial dans le « Buchhandel » allemand. C’est aussi un livre plein de découvertes, – au moins pour moi, – et c’est ainsi que j’ai découvert le poète-écrivain-résistant Jean Paul de Dadelsen.

Dans ce livre de Gilles Pudlwoski j’ai particulièrement savouré le chapitre dédie à la ville de Wissembourg. Passer une belle journée a Wissembourg, voir ce qu’il y de nouveau dans la librairie «à livre ouvert» chez Willy Hahn, est ce que je trouverai « Goethe en Alsace » de Jean Paul de Dadelsen ? Déjeuner au Cygne – peut être une Grumbeeredetchl » au saumon fumé, chantilly au raifort et petite salade de saison – et après passer chez la pâtisserie – chocolaterie Rebert pour quelques gourmandises avant de faire une belle promenade entre Rott, Cleebourg et Drachenbronn longeant les vignes et les lisières des belles forêts des Vosges du Nord. Naturellement je rêve, – en ce moment je marche avec des béquilles, et pour le Week-end les services météorologiques allemands nous annoncent des chutes de neige même en plaine … mais le dictionnaire amoureux de l’alsace est un livre qui nous invite à rêver de ce beau paysage, ce beau jardin l’Alsace !

Photos sélectionnées du paysage urbain de Grünstadt prise depuis ma chambre d’hôpital entre le 20.3 – 26.3.2015.

Vue de Grünstadt 1  21.03.2015 6.44Vue  sur Grünstadt, 21.03.2015  6:44

Vue de Grünstadt 4  21.03.2015 6.48Vue  sur Grünstadt, 21.03.2015  6:48

Vue de Grünstadt 5  21.03.2015 16.28Vue  sur Grünstadt, 21.03.2015  16:28

Vue de Grünstadt 7  22.03.2015 8.43Vue  sur Grünstadt, 22.03.2015  8:43

Vue de Grünstadt 8  22.03.2015 16.22Vue  sur Grünstadt, 22.03.2015  16:22

Vue de Grünstadt 9  22.03.2015 17.27Vue  sur Grünstadt, 22.03.2015  17:27

Vue de Grünstadt 10  23.03.2015 13.18Vue  sur Grünstadt, 23.03.2015  13:18

Vue de Grünstadt 11  23.03.2015 16.48Vue  sur Grünstadt, 23.03.2015  16:48

Vue de Grünstadt 13  23.03.2015 19.01Vue  sur Grünstadt, 23.03.2015  19:01

Vue de Grünstadt 14  25.03.2015 15.37Vue  sur Grünstadt, 25.03.2015 15.37

Vue de Grünstadt 15  26.03.2015 7.06Vue  sur Grünstadt, 26.03.2015  7:06

Photos: toutes © Christophe Neff 2015

Sources, livres etc. :

Bostridge, Ian (2015) : Schubert’s Winter Journey. Anatomy of an Obsession. London, (Faber & Faber), ISBN 978-0-571-28280-7

Eltchaninoff, Michel (2015): Dans la tête de Vladimir Poutine. Essai. Arles (Solin/Actes Sud), ISBN 978-2-330-03972-1

Lapouge, Gilles (2011):   Dictionnaire amoureux du Brésil, Paris, (Plon), ISBN 978-2-259-20925-0

Kurbujuweit, Dirk (2015): Ohne festen Boden – das Flugzeugunglück beendet den Mythos von deutscher Sicherheit. In: Der Spiegel, 14/2015, p. 14

Pudlowski, Gilles (2010): Dictionnaire amoureux de l’Alsace. Dessin d’Alain Bouldouyre. Paris, (Plon), ISBN 978-2-259-20947-2

Seiler, Lutz (2014): Kruso. Roman. Berlin (Suhrkamp Verlag Berlin), ISBN 978-3-518-42447-6

Christophe Neff, le 02.04.2015

P.S. (05.04.2015 11:00): Le billet fut publié le 02.04.2015, depuis le 04.04.2015 nous trouvons dans la Wikipédia française un article sur « Michel Eltchaninoff ».

[1] On trouve une description des paysages de la Unterhaardt sur le site Lanis (Landschaftsinformationssystems der Naturschutzverwaltung Rheinland-Pfalz) ici.

[2] L’institut de géographie de l’Université de Mannheim fut fermé du au mesure de restructuration universitaire entame pas le rectorat Arndt. Christoph Jentsch en 2009 à édite un livre sur l’histoire de la géographie à l’Université de Mannheim sous le titre: « Das Fach Geographie an der Mannheimer Hochschule 1907 bis 2006. Eine Dokumentation von Christoph Jentsch ». Dans paysages j’ai consacré en 2009 un article (en allemand) a cette documentation édité pas Christophe Jentsch sous le titre « Das Fach Geographie an der Mannheimer Hochschule ».

[3] Durant la préparation de Neuscape Shivcharn S. Dhillion était chercheur – enseignant à l’université de Oslo en Norvège.

[4] James Aronson, François Romane, Edouard Le Floc’h et Anne Grossmann étaient à cette époque membres du CNRS-CEFE à Montpellier. Dans les années le CEFE s’appelait encore Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle & Evolutive, CEPE Louis Emberger en mémoire du phytogéographe Louis Emberger.

[5] En écrivant ce texte, je découvre qu’il n’existe pas d’article sur Michel Eltchaninoff dans la Wikipedia française. Dommage, – car Eltchaninoff aurait surement mérité un article dans la

Aschermittwochsblognotiz 2013 – eine bemerkenswerte Begegnung beim Schramberger Hanselsprung am Fasnetssonntag 2013 (10.2.2013)

Narro + Hansel, Hanselsprung Schramberg 2013
Narro + Hansel, Hanselsprung Schramberg 2013, © C. Neff 2013

Wie so viele Schramberger Expatriierte komme ich relativ regelmäßig, – zwar nicht jedes Jahr, aber dennoch relativ oft, zuletzt im Jahr 2011 zur Fasnet nach Schramberg zurück. Die „Da-Bach-na-Fahrt“ und der danach stattfindende Rosenmontagsumzug ist bestimmt  der überregionale bekannteste  Höhepunkt der Schramberger Fasnet, – wobei es auch andere „Highlights“ gibt die den Vergleich mit der Da-Bach-na-Fahrt nicht scheuen brauchen.  Aus meiner Sicht ist das immer noch der Hanselsprung mit anschließendem Brezelsegen welcher  traditionell am Fasnetssonntag stattfindet. Die NRWZ  hat das, mit der Schlagzeile „Hanselsprung für tausende Besucher ein rezeptfreies Antidepressivum – Hoorig, hoorig – Schramberg im Glückstaumel“  zum diesjährigen Hanselsprung sehr sehr gut getroffen. Ja, dieses Jahr hat es mich auch wieder auf die Fasnet nach Schramberg gezogen, – Hanselsprung am Fasnetssonntag,  die Da-Bach-na-Fahrt und der Rosenmontagsumzug standen wieder auf dem Programm.

Winterhimmel und Februarschnee in Schramberg
Winterhimmel und Februarschnee in Schramberg, © C. Neff 2013

Am Fasnetssonntag 2013 lachte die Sonne über Schramberg, – beglückte die Kleidlesträges und Zuschauer mit einem stahlblauen Winterhimmel. Das Februarlicht wurde von den Schneekristallen auf den Fichten und Tannen der Bergwälder des Schramberger Talkessels  vielfach reflektiert und tauchte die Talstadt in ein fast gleißendes Licht.  Und irgendwann gegen 14:30 ertönte dann die „Hoorig Katz“, – der Schramberger Narrenmarsch,- und vermischt mit dem Geschell der Hansel und Narros –  wurde die Talstadt zu einem einzigartigen akustischen Amphitheater – Hoorigkatz und Geschellenläuten verdichten sich im engen Schramberger Talkessel zu dieser einzigartigen Klanglandschaft –  die man nur an der Fasnet erleben kann. The unique „soundscape“ of the „Schramberger Hanselsprung“ so  könnte man  einen noch zu schreibenden wissenschaftlicher Artikel über den Schramberger Hanselsprung  und dessen (Klang)- Landschaften betiteln. Diese „Tonlandschaften & Klangwelten“ kann man übrigens auch erleben, wenn die „Wintersonne“ nicht gar so strahlt wie am Fasnetssonntag 2013.

Ja, und am Hanselsprung des Fasnetssonntag 2013, hatte ich während des Brezelsegens eine bemerkenswerte Begegnung mit einem „großen Hansel“.  Wir (.d.h. meine Tochter und meine Nichte) hatten uns schon ein paar Brezeln und Guzzle ersungen, da bemerkten wir einen sehr großen Hansel , der auf uns zukam.  Wir begann zu springen und die „Hoorig Katz“ zu singen. Der Hansel unterbrach mich per Handzeichen und unter der Maske erklang eine Männerstimme – „auf Französisch bitte“ – worauf ich so perplex war, – dass ich erst einmal verstummte. Dann ertönte es unter der Maske “en français Christophe“ – und ich erwiderte „die Hoorig Katz auf Französisch?“ – worauf der große Hansel nickte. Und so begann ich zur Melodie der Hoorig Katz  zur ersten Strophe anzusetzen „le chat n’a pas de poils“ – doch gleich wies mich der große Hansel mit einer Handbewegung an zu stoppen –  denn er hatte erkannt das das falsch war – denn richtiger weise heißt es „le chat a des poils“. Also versuchte ich dann mit „le chat a des poils“ – und bekomme dann endlich auch meine Brezel.  Die Brezel in der Hand, fällt mir ein, dass es eigentlich ganz korrekt „le chat poilu, le chat poilu, le chat poilu – et si le chat n’est pas poilu il ne plait guère aux filles – le chat poilu“ – aber da war der große Hansel schon längst wieder im Gewühl verschwunden. Ja, da waren wir (d.h. ich und meine zwei Begleiterinnen) doch alle sehr sehr überrascht, – ein großer Hansel (bestimmt ein Kopf größer als ich)  – der sich die „Hoorig Katz“ auf Französisch vorsingen lässt. Die Schramberger Fasnet ist wirklich für Überraschungen gut. Wer der große Hansel war, der mich die Hoorig Katz auf Französisch vorsingen ließ, weiß ich nicht, – die Stimme habe ich nicht zuordnen können, und unter Larve und Häs ist es sowieso sehr schwer jemanden zu erkennen.

großer Hansel - Hanselsprung Schramberg 2013
großer Hansel – Hanselsprung Schramberg 2013, © C. Neff 2013

Wer es auch immer gewesen sein mag, – das war wirklich ein gelungener „Fasnetsstreich“ – ein Fasnetsstreich der mir fast die Sprache verschlug – ich hatte wirklich Schwierigkeiten die Hoorigkatz aus dem Stehgreif zu übersetzten. Weiterhin hatte dieser „Fasnetsstreich“ auch einen gewissen Esprit, – die Hoorig-Katz auf Französisch auf singen zu lassen – denn  immerhin feierte man 2013 die 50 Jahre Élysée-Vertrag  (hierzu auch die Beiträge: Blognotice 22.01.2013: pensées personnelles franco-allemandes sur le cinquantième anniversaire du Traité de l’Elysée; Blognotice 30.12.2012: Réflexions sur « les Zungenknoten – ungebetene Gäste» de Martin Graff;  Blognotice 22.09.2012: Commémoration du discours historique de Charles de Gaulle du 9.9.1962 à Ludwigsburg). Weiterhin gehört Schramberg, dank der Initiative und Tatkraft des Bürgermeister Konstantin Hank, zu den ersten deutschen Städten die nach dem zweiten Weltkrieg, eine Städtepartnerschaft mit einer französischen Stadt aufnahmen. Im Jahres 1958, also schon fünf Jahre vor dem Abschluß des Élysée-Vertrages, wurde diese Städtepartnerschaft zwischen Hirson und Schramberg geschlossen.

Diese Begegnung mit dem großen Hansel auf dem Schramberger Hanselsprung am Fasnetssonntag 2013 wird mir wohl sehr lange in Erinnerung bleiben.  Soweit es die Schramberger Narrenzunft erlaubt, werde ich den gesamten Schramberger Narrenmarsch, – die berühmte „Hoorig Katz“ komplett ins Französische übersetzten und hier im Paysagesblog veröffentlichen.

Die Fasnet ist nun wieder vorbei, – der Aschermittwoch kündigt das Osterfest und die dazwischen liegende „Fastenzeit“ an. Nun wird es wieder ein Jahr dauern bis der Schramberger Talkessel von Schellenlärm und d’Hoorig Katz in sein sonderbares Klangbad eingetaucht werden wird. Ein Klangbad, welches das Ende des Winters und den baldigen Frühlingsbeginn ankündigt.

kleiner Hansel + Da Bach na Fahrer, Hanselsprung Schramberg 2013
kleiner Hansel + Da Bach na Fahrer, Hanselsprung Schramberg 2013, © C. Neff 2013

Die Begegnung mit dem großen Hansel, erinnerte mich an meine frühen Kindheitstage, – als ich, noch als ganz kleiner „Bua“ den Großeltern von den tollen Schramberger Hanseln erzählte. In Saulgau (damals noch ohne Bad) bei den Großeltern väterlichseits gab es zwar die auch sehr schönen „Dorausschreier“  mit ihrem bekannten  Narrenruf „Doraus, detnaus, bei der alte Linda naus.“  aber mit den Schramberger Hanseln und auch den Sulgener Krattenmacher konnten diese Saulgauer Narrenfiguren  in meinen damaligen Kinderaugen nicht bestehen. Bei den Großeltern mütterlicherseits, dem französischen Teil der Familie, – die Großeltern Migliori wohnten damals noch in Eckbolsheim bei Strasbourg – da waren es einfach die „ les fabuleux Hansel de Schramberg“.

Eh, oui – parfois ces fabuleux Schramberger Hansel comprennent  et parlent  même un peu de français.

Photos: alle © C. Neff 2013 ; Narro + Hansel; Winterhimmel und Februarschnee in Schramberg; großer Hansel; kleiner Hansel + Da – Bach – na-Fahrer; (alle vom Schramberger Hanselsprung 2013)

Christophe Neff, 13.02.2013

Blognotice 10.11.2012: back sight on a rainy November Wednesday morning in South West Germany

Daybreak in Grünstadt: 7. November 2012, 5.50 am. local time,  raindrops were falling on the roofs of a sleepy German town. Some minutes later I turned my notebook on to get news from the results of presidential election in the U.S. The first info I got was an alert message by email from le – sent by le  at 5.21 – “   “Barack Obama réélu président des Etats-Unis (Barack Obama reelected as President of the United Staates) . At the same moment my wife shouted, – Barack Obama wiedergewählt (Barack Obama reelected) – it was six a clock in the morning – she heard the message in the regional radio news.

At 6.22 am. I received an electronic message from U.S., from a former schoolmate now living in California “looks like Obama won”. At 6.30 arrived the New York Times Alarm – “Breaking News Alert – The New York Times Wednesday, November 7, 2012 — 12:13 AM EST Breaking News: President Obama Wins Re-election, The New York Times Projects”. At 7.01 I read the Le alert messages announcing  Mitt Romney conceded (Mitt Romney reconnaît sa défaite face à Barack Obama) – and got the same info’s on the NYT live coverage.

At 7.15 am. I mailed back to California “Good Night in California, – ich freue mich für Amerika, – I feel glad for the U.S.!” In Grünstadt the black colors of night changed to diming grey daylight, and it was still raining. The projection of the victory of Barack Obama done in Blognotice 05.11.2012, – had become reality, – but the reelection was much more impressive than I projected it in paysages – because I thought (and wrote) that it could very narrow – similar as the reelection of Gerhard Schröder in 2002 as Chancelor in Germany after the Elbhochwasser . But the political impact of the Hurricane Sandy can’t be compared to situation in Germany in 2002 following the Elbhochwasser, – after all I have read the political impact of the Hurricane Sandy on Obamas Victory seemed to have been minimal – but without the Elbhochwasser Gerhard Schröder would have had enormous difficulties to be reelected as Chancellor . Being sure that Barack Obama was reelected I also remembered my souvenirs of the first election of Barack Obama four years ago. I had to work in Tunis in November 2008 and I followed the historical moment of Barak Obama election in French TV and on CNN. It was an unbelievable atmosphere in Tunisia at that time. I remember a rainy November week in Tunis and la Marsa – on one hand a beginning “fin de règne” ambience in Tunisia – and on the other hand – the United States people for the first time elected an Afro-American to hold the presidential office. Now four years later we know that this November 2008 election of Barack Obama was not an historical accident.

At about 7.50 am. I started my car ride to Office in Karlsruhe, – and it was still raining. Some hours later I learned that Jérôme Ferrari had won the 2012 Prix Goncourt for his novel “Le Sermon sur la chute de Rome” („The Sermon on the Fall of Rome“). So unfortunately the second forecast in paysages  Blognotice 05.11.2012 for the Prix Goncourt winner in 2012 was not as good as the projection for the U.S. presidential election. Neither «La vérité sur l’affaire Harry Quebert »  (Joël Dicker)   nor   « Lame de fond » ( Linda Lê) won the Prix Goncourt. Following Pierre Assouline in the Republique des Livres the novel of the Swiss-French writer Joel Dicker is a great American novel describing the 2008 electoral America. A great American novel written in French by a Swiss-French author – this sounds very strange. I have not read the book, but after all what Pierre Assouline wrote about the novel (see here; in French) it would merit a translation into English.

On that last Wednesday morning I also read in our local News Paper, die Rheinpfalz, in an article signed Dagmar Gilcher (Gilcher, D. 2012: Aber die Bilder bleiben) that the novel “L’Art français de la guerre” (Alexis Jenny), the Prix Goncourt winner 2011, has now been translated into German. “Die französische Kunst des Krieges” is the German title of the war novel written by Alexis Jenny . I have read the book in July 2012 and I think it was one of the best French novels I read in the last years. Of course this book would also merit an English translation. The German translation (translator = Uli Wittmann) was released in October 2012 on the German Book market.  L’Art français de la Guerre („The French art of war“) immerges deeply into the recent military past of France – and in that recent military past France had to suffer hard in Indochina and Algeria. In Indochina – as did the U.S. forces some years later what now was called Vietnam. The name of the region had changed, – but the place, the geography remained unchanged – Vietnam (and Laos & Cambodia). For both, the French colonial troupes in Indochina and the US-Forces in Vietnam it was a terrible experience – a war in foreign land. Indochina – or as we call it now – Vietnam – confronted the French – and later the U.S. Soldiers with a strange and unfamiliar geography, and an alien people – far away from European – French or U.S. American culture.  A very detailed critic of the “L’Art français de la guerre” can be read in “Le grand art si français d’Alexis Jenni (in French)” published in the Pierre Assouline book blog la Republique des livres in August 2011. It sounds strange that this book has not been translated into English, – it is an impressive novel which describes us how war scares over our cultural heritage and interior landscapes – I am sure that the story of Victorien Salagon would find a large audience in the English-speaking world, particularly in the U.S.A.

The morning of the Wednesday 7.11.2012 was a grey November morning in Southwest Germany. All over the morning we heard the rain falling on the autumn leaves. Now four days later as I write down this blognotice it’s still raining. Yesterday we have had some hours of sun shine, – but except this little time of sunshine – I have the feeling that the week of the reelection of Barak Obama for four more years – was a very rainy week – as it was in Tunis in November 2008.


Gilcher, Dagmar (2012): Aber die Bilder bleiben. „Die französische Kunst des Krieges“: Alexis Jenny gefeiertes Romandebüt ist jetzt auf Deutsch erschienen. In: Die Rheinpfalz, Nr. 259, Kultur, Mittwoch, 7 November 2012.

Christophe Neff, 10. November 2012

Some words concerning Eryngium campestre (field Eryngium) on Wikipedia.en

When I was writing Balade d’été sur le Grünstadter Berg (19.7.2009) and linking „panicaut champetre „(the French word for field Ernygium) to – I had also a look to the English article on Wikipedia.en describing field eryngium . About 70- 80 % of the article was wrong, – as for example „A member of the carrot family“ – (Eryngium campestre is member of the Apiacea) – and the editing of the wrong family affiliation went back to 15. March 2007 (see revision history). I corrected the sentence, and linked the article to the article describing Eryngium campestre on webpage’s of the Botanical Society of the British Isle and the distribution map on telabotanica showing the distribution of the plant in continental France. I have not corrected the sentence concerning the gall fly, but I think that the celery fly (Acidia heraclei = Philophylla heraclei = Euleia heraclei) should be better on in the article concerning the celery (Apium graveolens). But you will not find anything concerning the celery fly in the celery articles, neither in en, de, fr. This shows clearly the problem of the reliableness of articles concerning traditional naturalist or botany articles on wikipedia. This is only one example; I guess I would find many other examples to demonstrate the problem.

The other problem is that many articles of traditional naturalist interest (botany, physical geography etc. ) are simply missing – as I wrote in the Balade d’été sur le Grünstadter Berg (19.7.2009) no article in about the Zinnkoepfle, which is not only a very interesting naturalistic site but also à notable french „Grand Cru“ (AOC Alsace Grand Cru Zinnkoepfle) ! Neither nor there is an article about the „Grünstadter Berg“ in Noting that the „Grünstadter Berg“ would also merit an English Wikipedia article – because it was during the cold war an important U.S. Missile Basis, – (the 887th Tactical Missile Squadron was based on the Grünstadter Berg ). I think most people in Grünstadt have forgotten the importance which the Grünstadter Berg had during the „cold war“ – or perhaps never known – or never wanted to know

I am not only critizeing Wikipedia – sometimes I’ll try to contribute to .de ,.fr , .en , to improve articles, sometimes even create new one. But not too much on topics where a I have a professional competence – writing on Wikipedia is not very interesting – its not valorizationing scientific competence – that’s the reason why I never intervened in Article Feuer (Umweltfaktor) – the article about fire ecology in the German Wikipedia – which in my opinion is a very good example for a bad article, an article which would need in-depth clean-up. Unlike the German fireecology article the English fireecology articel seems to be very well done, accurate citation of sources etc, – perhaps a little bit to much focused on the U.S. – because we have also forestfires outside the U.S. (and also fireecologist outside the U.S.) – but all in all a good introduction into Fire ecology.

Concerning the „Grünstadter Berg“, perhaps in some days or weeks, if until then, not some other has started an article, I will write a stub for But I prefer to collect material for a regional geography paper presenting the „Grünstadter Berg“ and to submit to a regional geography or naturalistic journal as for example Pollichia, than to write a stub for Wikipedia.

Concerning the Zinnkoeple the French botanist Emil Issler (1951, 1975) has published some papers about the Zinnkoepfle. But even Emil Issler, the French botanist who has done so much for the research of flora & vegetation of the Vosges and the Alsatian plain – he is unknown in the French Wikipedia – and in the other wikis of course too. For (germanreading) readers more interested in a new approach of the Zinnkoepfle and the vallée noble, the can read the pages 48- 51 in my MEDGROW (Neff 2000), – the book version of my PHD-Thesis, but most of the chapter is dedicated to the „Cedrus atlanitca“ (Atlas cedar) experimental plantations done by French foresters in the 1960 not far away from the „Zinnkoepfle“ – in the „forêt du Osenbühr“. And this „Cedrus atlantica“ site, where Cedrus has begun to regenerate without any human intervention, would also merit a botanical & dendroecological revisitation by myself or colleagues – because we could win some interesting findings for global change research and adaption of Mediterranean forest trees in Middle-European forestry, – but this of course has nothing to do with Wikipedia.


Field eryngium (Eryngium campestris) on xérothermique subméditerranéen grassland on the Grünstadter Berg (Photo C.Neff 19.7.2009 (Canon Powershot A720 IS)).

Literature cited:

Issler, E. (1951): Trockenrasen – und Trockenwaldgesellschaften der oberelsässischen Niederterrasse und ihre Beziehung zu denjenigen der Kalkhügel und der Silikatberge des Osthanges der Vogesen. In: Berichte der Schweizerischen Botanischen Gesellschaft, p. 664- 659.

Issler, E. (1975): Forêts et garides de la plaine haut-rhinoise. In : Saison d‘ Alsace, 61-62, p.94-113.

Neff, C. (2000): MEDGROW – Vegetationsdynamik und Kulturlandschaftswandel im Mittelmeerraum. Mannheimer Geographische Arbeiten, H. 52, Mannheim (Dissertation/PHD-Thesis). (ISBN 3-923750-80-3)

Christophe Neff, Grünstadt

Restarting Ecologia mediterranea

couvertue-ecologia_mediterranea_2008-34_01.1289635906.jpgSome days ago I have made a French posting „ecologia mediterranea – un nouveau départ ! “ about the rebirth of Ecologia mediterranea. I think the rebirth of Ecologia mediterranea is such an important event that it also merits a short English posting. Ecologia mediterranea was for about 25 years the leading scientific journal for Mediterranean type ecosystems, but some years ago it felt in sort of dormancy, – but in fact it was never down – but the publication rhythm was very irregular. Now the new Editor in chief Thierry Dutoit has began a revitalization of the Journal – the Journal has got his own Journalhomepage – and all previous number of the Journal – from the very first beginning in 1975 to the number 34 of 2008 can be downloaded for free on the electronic archive of the Journalhomepage . The Internet site of the Journal is hosted by the „Universite d’Avignon and the Pays de Vaucluse„, where the Editor in chief Thierry Dutoit has a professorship in agronomy. I hope the new editor in chief and his editorial team will successfully lead the Ecologia mediterranea to new performance – to at least becoming was it was formerly – the leading scientific journal of Mediterranean type ecosystems – the so called MTE ! The only downer is, that Ecologia mediterranea is only accepting French and English manuscripts for publication- I would have preferred it, if they would accept also Italian, Portuguese and Spanish manuscripts. At the least they should accept Spanish manuscripts – as the other (New World) Mediterranean ecology & botany Journal the Madroño , the Journal of the California Botanical Society does.

But after all – I wish good luck for the rebirth of Ecologia mediterranea – and as reader of the review I hope to read soon interesting manuscripts.

Sources & Literature cited :

Dutoit, T (2008) : Éditorial. Ecologia mediterranea Revue internationale d‘ écologie méditerranéenne – Mediterranean Journal of Ecology, Vol 34, 2008.

Christophe Neff, Grünstadt le 24.7.2009

The Fatal Forest Fire – remembering the “1949 Mega fire” in the „Forêt des Landes” (South West France)

In August 1949 the „Forêt des Landes“ in Southwest France near the Atlantic coast between Bordeaux and Arcachon was destroyed by a mega-forest fire – 50.000 ha of forest land were burnt – and 82 people killed. This was the most deadly forest fire in Europe in modern times (and perhaps also in historical times). Some days ago I dedicated a posting in French with the title „1949 – l‘incendie meurtrier dans la Forêt des Landes “ to this notable fire event. The fatal fire event burnt the Forêt the Landes (in English sometimes called Landes Forest ),a large forest ranging the Atlantic coast from the Gironde estuary to Arcachon in the South, – a forest dominated by 90% of Maritime Pine (Pinus pinaster). This forest fire has been completely forgotten by the collective memory in France (and also in the rest of Europe). Till today there is no article neither in the French nor English Wikipedia describing this notable forest fire event.


For people reading French and interested in European fire history I would suggest to read the new book of Joan Deville« L’incendie meurtrier – dans la forêt des Landes en août 1949 » retracing the fire history of this murderous fire. In my French billet there is a more detailed résumé of the book. The book is not a „fireecolgy reader“ – its written from the view point of the fire-fighters – it’s a fire fighter perspective – and most of the 82 victims of the fire were firefighters (voluntary fire brigade men, and service men from the French army) but also a fire ecologist, a geographer, a forester can learn much about the behavior of such a fire, which I would call a „Mega fire“ or „Mega forest fire event“ from reading the book. This fire had also another quality than most other European forest fires – which are mostly Mediterranean fires – a very high fuelloading in some way comparably to what we knew from pacific coast fires in the U.S. (Washington, Oregon, Montana) and Canada. A European mega fire – causing 82 dead, 50.000 ha of Maritime Pine forest and 700 ha of prairies burnt – and not linked to any „Global Warming Discussion“. This shows clearly that in dry and hot weather conditions large fire events also happened in non-mediterranean European forests – and that this could happen occasionally – or has happened occasionally in historical times – as to take another example the 1975 Lüneburger Forest Fire in Lower Saxony (Germany) (see my posting Feux de forêts et lectures de paysages méditerranéens: (Écologie et biogéographie des forêts du bassin méditerranéen ; The Nature of Mediterranean Europe – an Ecological History ; Le feu dans la nature – mythes et réalité ) which the German collective memory has also forgot. But as I wrote in l’incendie meurtrier , – if global warming scenarios for Europe are correct, we would have more dry and hot weather conditions – and the probability to have increasing forest fire risks in non-mediterranean Europe would increase. In the French posting I wrote that « Je pense même que l‘ incendie des Landes, ou le feu de la Lüneburger Heide pourrait être un peu le modèle de feu de forêts auxquels nous devrons peut être de plus en plus faire face avec les changements climatiques en dehors de écosystèmes méditerranéens » which means basically that the forest fire of the Landes 1949 or the forest fire in Lüneburger Heide could be a model for coming fire events in non-mediterranean european forests linked to global warming. So the book of Joan Deville, even if it’s in French would merit a large audience.

This is a blog posting – not an scientific paper – for an actual scientific approach concerning future fire risks in Europe read the new paper of Krawchuk et al (2009) „Global Pyrogeography: the Current and Future Distribution of Wildfire “ . I have myself written a little paper in 2003 (Neff 2003) forecasting increasing fire risks linked to global warming for some middle European forest region . Concerning „the fatal Mega fire of the Forêt des Landes“ – one should perhaps write a scientific review paper of this historical fire – because if more fire experts will share my conviction that the „Grand Incendie de la Forêt des Landes“ as the 1949 fire is often called in French, is really a historical model for expected forest fires due to global warming in non-mediterranean European forests – we should know more about this historical fire event on the South-West Atlantic coast of France. Perhaps I should start something like this with interested colleagues after recovery from my accident – because I am still lying in my sickbed in Grünstadt – locking out on the big birch in our garden – and wiriting my bedside blog „Dépêches du grand bouleau“.


Deville, J. (2009) : L’incendie meurtrier – dans la forêt des Landes en août 1949. Paris (les Éditions des Pompiers de France), (ISBN 978-2-916079-20-2)

Krawchuk MA, Moritz MA, Parisien M-A, Van Dorn J, Hayhoe K (2009): Global Pyrogeography: the Current and Future Distribution of Wildfire. PLoS ONE 4(4): e5102. oi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005102

Neff, C., Scheid, A. (2003): Kontrollierte Feuer in Natur und Landschaftspflege: – Erfahrungen aus dem Mittleren Schwarzwald (Raumschaft Schramberg) und den mediterranen Pyrenäen (Pyrénées Orientales/Region Prades) Südfrankreichs. In: Venturelli, R.C., Müller, F. (Eds): Paesaggio culturale e biodiversità. Principi generali, metodi, proposte operative. Giardini e Paesaggio, 7, Firenze, 163 – 177, (ISBN 88-222-5272-1).

Christophe Neff, Grünstadt le 13.7.2009

P.S.: For French reading readers of this „fatal fire“ article interested in natural hazards & risks I would also suggest to have look on the Gestion des Risques et Crises Blog . This seems to be a very professional blog!