Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)

Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

War drives forest fire risks and highlights the need for more ecologically-sound forest management in post-war Ukraine

Matsala, Maksym; Odruzhenko, Andrii; Hinchuk, Taras; Myroniuk, Viktor; Drobyshev, Igor; Sydorenko, Serhii; Zibtsev, Sergiy; Milakovsky, Brian; Schepaschenko, Dmitry; Kraxner, Florian; Bilous, Andrii


Since 24 February 2022, Ukraine has experienced full-scale military aggression initiated by the Russian Federation. The war has had a major negative impact on vegetation cover of war-affected regions. We explored interactions between pre-war forest management and the impacts of military activities in three of the most forested Ukrainian areas of interest (AOI), affected by the war. These were forests lying between Kharkiv and Luhansk cities (AOI 'East'), forests along the Dnipro River delta (AOI 'Kherson'), and those of the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone (AOI CEZ). We used Sentinel satellite imagery to create damaged forest cover masks for the year 2022. We mapped forests with elevated fire hazard, which was defined as a degree of exposure to the fire-supporting land use (mostly an agricultural land, a common source of ignitions in Ukraine). We evaluated the forest disturbance rate in 2022, as compared to pre-war rates. We documented significant increases in non-stand replacing disturbances (low severity fires and non-fire disturbances) for all three of the AOIs. Damaged forest cover varied among the AOIs (24,180 +/- 4,715 ha, or 9.3% +/- 1.8% in the 'East' AOI; 7,293 +/- 1,925 ha, or 15.7% +/- 4.1% in the 'Kherson' AOI; 7,116 +/- 1,274 ha, or 5.0% +/- 0.9% in the CEZ AOI). Among the forests damaged in 2022, the 'Kherson' AOI will likely have the highest proportion of an area with elevated fire hazard in the coming decades, as compared to other regions (89% vs. 70% in the 'East' and CEZ AOIs respectively). Future fire risks and extensive war-related disturbance of forest cover call for forest management to develop strategies explicitly addressing these factors.

Published in

Scientific Reports
2024, Volume: 14, number: 1, article number: 4131