Deforestation responsible for the increase in Amazon fires, study says

The number of active fires in the Amazon rainforest this August was three times higher than during the same period in 2019, according to research published in the Journal of Global Change Biology.

Researchers at the University of Lancaster and the Universidade Federal do Pará, Brazil, collected evidence from the Brazillian Governments DETER-b deforestation detection system, which calculates deforestation by interpreting images taken by NASA satellites.

Based on the satellite images, the researchers found that in July 2019, the fires were almost four times the average from the same period in the previous three years and were also the highest number since 2010.

The satellite images also showed that deforestation continued at a rate that is well above average into September.

The scale of the Amazon fires received global attention, however, international concerns were countered by the Brazilian government who claimed that the fires were normal and below the historical average.

However, the researchers have shown that these fires were way above average and that this is due to increased deforestation, according to the researchers, deforestation is almost always followed by a fire.

Professor Jos Barlow, lead author of the paper said: ‘The marked upturn in both active fire counts and deforestation in 2019, therefore, refutes suggestions by the Brazillian government that August 2019 was a normal fire month in the Amazon.’

The researchers explained that there are three types of fires, deforestation fires which is the process of clearing primary forest, with the fire being used to prepare the land for agriculture.

The second type of fire is a fire in areas that have previously been cleared, for example, cattle ranchers use fire to remove weeds from pastures, the researchers note that not all fires in previously cleared lands are intentional, some escape beyond their intended limits.

Thirdly, there are fires that can invade forests, either for the first time when flames or as repeated events, resulting in more intense fires.

Dr Erika Berenguer, a Brazilian researcher jointly affiliated with Lancaster University and the University of Oxford said: ‘Our paper clearly shows that without tackling deforestation, we will continue to see the largest rainforest in the world being turned to ashes.’

‘We must curb deforestation.’

Photo Credit – Pixabay

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