The Amazonian Rainforests are on Fire!
Project location: VARIOUS COUNTRIES, Amazonia
Project start date: n/a - Project end date: n/a
photo above: Locations of fires, marked in orange, which were detected by MODIS from August 15 to August 22, 2019
As the largest tract of tropical rainforest in the Americas, the Amazonian rainforests have unparalleled biodiversity. One in ten known species in the world lives in the Amazon rainforest. This constitutes the largest collection of living plants and animal species in the world.
The region is home to about 2.5 million insect species, tens of thousands of plants, and some 2,000 birds and mammals. To date, at least 40,000 plant species, 2,200 fishes, 1,294 birds, 427 mammals, 428 amphibians, and 378 reptiles have been scientifically classified in the region. One in five of all bird species are found in the Amazon rainforest, and one in five of the fish species live in Amazonian rivers and streams. Scientists have described between 96,660 and 128,843 invertebrate species in Brazil alone.
The biodiversity of plant species is the highest on Earth with one 2001 study finding a quarter square kilometer (62 acres) of Ecuadorian rainforest supports more than 1,100 tree species. A study in 1999 found one square kilometer (247 acres) of Amazon rainforest can contain about 90,790 tonnes of living plants. The average plant biomass is estimated at 356 ± 47 tonnes per hectare. To date, an estimated 438,000 species of plants of economic and social interest have been registered in the region with many more remaining to be discovered or catalogued. The total number of tree species in the region is estimated at 16,000.
It is crucial to regulating global warming, with its forests absorbing millions of tonnes of carbon emissions every year and providing 20% of the world's oxygen.
We all depend on that. Environmental Conservation must be everyone's top priority. The future of life on earth depends on our ability to take action.
Let’s wake up!
The 2019 Amazon rainforest wildfires are an unusually strong series of thousands of independent wildfires occurring in the Amazon rainforest in 2019 during the tropical dry season. The bulk of the wildfires have occurred within Brazil's Legal Amazon (Amazônia Legal or BLA), the portion of the forest within Brazil, but neighboring countries of Bolivia, Peru, and Paraguay have also lost large areas to wildfire, including over 1.8 million acres (>7,200 km²) in Bolivia alone.
While such fires are annual occurrences during the dry season, the 2019 fires were brought to the attention of the scientific and international community in July and August 2019 after the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais, INPE) released statistics based on satellite observations documenting at least 75,336 wildfires burning in the country from January to August 23, 2019, with more than 40,000 within the Amazon rainforest, the highest number since data collection began in 2013. Satellite images from NASA corroborated INPE's findings that the Amazon forest has faced more intense wildfires in 2019 than in previous years.
INPE and other experts attributed the wildfires to slash-and-burn approaches to clear land for logging and farming to support Brazil's exports such as beef. The Brazilian and Bolivian governments had recently enacted policies allowing for increased clearing of rainforest areas for farming and logging. Since 2004 Brazil has taken some measures to reduce the acceleration of deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, but the increased rate of deforestation in 2019 raised concerns from environmental experts due to the importance of the Amazon basin in climate change mitigation. Additionally, slash-and-burn techniques and subsequent wildfires may threaten the protected lands of the indigenous peoples in Brazil within the rainforest.
The wildfires drew criticism against the Brazilian government, particularly from environmental NGOs and France, which borders Brazil in its overseas department of French Guiana, in the week leading up to the 45th G7 summit. These agencies assert that policies put in place by newly elected Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro have weakened the protection for the rainforest. Bolsonaro and his ministers retorted that deforestation is needed to rebuild Brazil's economy, and that INPE's data has been falsified as part of a misinformation campaign against his administration. In early August, Bolsonaro fired the director of the INPE after the agency reported statistics that showed an increase in deforestation in Brazil. With increased international attention, including proposals to ban Brazilian exports and to end negotiations on the European Union–Mercosur Free Trade Agreement, the federal government has since committed over 44,000 Brazilian troops, and an additional funding of R$38.5 million was reallocated by the Ministry of Economy to stop the fires.
As of August 20, there are fires burning in the rainforest in four Brazilian states: Amazonas, Rondônia, Mato Grosso and Pará. The states of Amazonas and Acre declared states of emergency in response to the wildfires.