Related Topics: Environment & Biodiversity, Natural Disasters
- Fires in Amazon rainforest have increased by 84 per cent this year, according to satellite data released by Brazil’s space research agency.
- The National Institute for Space Research, Brazil detected 72,000 fires between January and August, 2019, the highest since 2013.
- The fire caused an hour-long daytime blackout in the city of Sao Paulo owing to smoke coming from a forest burning 2,700 km away.
Forest Fires in Amazon
- Fires are a regular and natural occurrence in the Amazon during the dry season.
- In Amazon, when an area of forest is cleared, the tree trunks are removed and the rest of the vegetation is burned on the spot during the dry season, which lasts from July to November.
- The dramatic scale of this year’s fires is the result of a significant acceleration of deforestation for the lumber industry, for agriculture or for other human activities.
- Farmers wait for the dry season and they start burning and clearing the areas so that their cattle can graze.
- Environmental activists also blame Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, who has encouraged such tree-clearing activities for agriculture and mining.
- Deforestation in Amazon began in the 1970s, reaching its peak rate at the end of the 1990s and the start of the 2000s.
- In 2004, about 28,000 square km of forest had been cleared in Brazil alone.
- The Amazon spreads over nine countries, but 60 per cent of the rainforest is in Brazil.
- According to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), about 2,900 square miles of rainforest disappeared last year.
- When a tree is cut, the carbon inside will re-enter the atmosphere years later, at the end of its use cycle when it decomposes.
- When vegetation is burned, as is happening now, the carbon enters the atmosphere immediately.
- Thus forest fires will contribute to enhancing the rate of climate change.
Significance of Amazon
- The Amazon is the largest tropical forest in the world.
- It covers more than five million square kilometres across nine countries: Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.
- It acts as an enormous carbon sink, storing up to an estimated 100 years worth of carbon emissions produced by humans.
- It is seen as vital to slowing the pace of global warming.
- The Amazon forest, which produces about 20% of earth’s oxygen, is often referred to as “the planet’s lungs.“
- Reducing wildfires requires going beyond addressing the ignition sources and fighting the flames themselves, and also encouraging actions that limit forest flammability.
- Tackling deforestation remains the key as it exposes forest edges to the hotter and drier microclimate of agricultural land, and contributes to regional reductions in rainfall.
- Climate change itself is making dry seasons longer and forests more flammable.
- Addressing these challenges requires integrated national and global actions, collaboration between scientists and policy makers and long-term funding approaches.
[Sources: The Hindu, Down To Earth, The Conservation]