Amazon Rainforest Was Once Fire-Proof, But Humans Turned It Flammable

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The Amazon rainforests are widely considered as the lungs of the planet for a good reason. Protecting the forests and wetlands has become crucial in the face of rapid climate change. Trees are the only thing that can now save mankind from the clutches of global warming.

Nonetheless, decreasing the levels of carbon dioxide emitted greatly relies on preventing large-scale deforestation. More importantly, the wildfires frequently rampaging the Amazon rainforests and other forest areas must also come to a stop.

Nature Communications has recently conducted a study and published the fact that the forest fires take place mainly owing to the enormous amount of carbon released by the Amazon rainforests. Forest fires usually emit approximately 1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide during the years of drought. This amount is double the carbon emission through deforestation of the Amazon.

The Problem of Amazon Rainforests

Human activities are largely responsible for pouring vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Developed nations including the United States of America and the United Kingdom release most of the carbon dioxide through individual activities. On the other hand, tropical developing countries like Brazil emit carbon dioxide from chopping down or burning forests.

amazon rainforests

Deforestation is a huge stimulus for carbon emissions. On the contrary wildfires beneath the forest canopy is a less visible yet malignant threat. Researchers have set up a combined methodology through satellite data in order to comprehend the ongoing climate change, atmospheric carbon presence, and the condition of the forest ecosystems.

The study has revealed that carbon emissions from forest fires are increasing at an exponentially rapid pace. However, the estimate of the national emission data still does not usually account for tropical forest fire emissions.

Are Wildfires Recognised As Natural Fires?

The wildfires that frequently break out in the Amazon rainforests are not recognized as natural occurrences. Rather they take place due to the combination of adverse human activities and droughts. Regional deforestation activities contribute to the frequency and intensity of droughts in the Amazonian regions. 

As a result, a disturbing cycle is kick-started wherein the trees receive less water at the time of droughts, and the growth of plants considerably slows down. They are no longer able to absorb carbon dioxide through photosynthesis from the Earth’s atmosphere. Trees begin shedding more leaves and drying up. This leads to the burning of dry leaves and tree remains on forest floors.

Additionally, the lack of dense canopy extracts the moisture and the forests lose humidity that acted as a natural prevention measure for forest fires. These changes led to ‘selective logging’ that allows the felling of canopy trees that cover the understory of the forest floor, triggering in more fires.

Result: naturally fire-proof rainforests have now become inflammable.

Frequent Fires In The Amazon

The forest lands in various parts of the world have emerged as fire pockets. The increasing rampages in the Amazon rainforest are a big concern. The El Nino fire burnt down millions of hectares of land recently. Moreover, the strangely warm climate of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans might be a significant factor for prompting droughts that may aggravate.

The Amazon rainforest has already witnessed the 3 biggest droughts of this century in the years 2015-2016, 2010, and 2005. Carbon emissions through forest fires are likely to overtake deforestation impact. This can be the case if predictions on climate change are accurate and we take no appropriate measures to efficiently foretell and eradicate fires.

amazon rainforests

The Amazon rainforests are now potentially warming our climate more than it is cooling it.  Researchers have informed that unbridled droughts, greenhouse gas emissions, and land clearing is attributable to the surge in global warming. This indicates that humans can no longer depend on the Amazon rainforest to offset carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels or other harmful human activities. The loss of the Amazon rainforests comes as an ominous warning for the impending doom of climate change. 

Brazil has signed the climate change Paris agreement and committed to decreasing their carbon emission to 37 percent by 2005. Brazil has made a great start by considerably reducing its deforestation rates during the last decade. Nevertheless, fires in the Amazon rainforests cannot come in control through deforestation policies and turn irrelevant in alleviating carbon emission. In order to successfully curb and control the problem of fire in the Amazon rainforests, Brazil has to take proactive steps on individual and community levels.

Policies, Measures & Actions

Brazil has already made fundamental advances in transparently reporting emissions of deforestation. They must now immediately attempt to incorporate carbon dioxide losses in wildfires and make accurate estimates. The fire emission is bound to increase manifold because of the increase in droughts, fire application to regulate pastures and burn unwanted vegetation, and selective logging.

Fire is a crucial part of the countless livelihoods of smallholders. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to execute sustainable as well as socially just policies towards fire control measures. Therefore, Brazil must withdraw their budget cut for the organizations which oversee their solely existing program of fire prevention. They must also be mindful of avoiding selective logging across various regions. These are areas that have an inclination towards fire break-out and safeguard forest welfare with long-term prospects.

In conclusion, all the data and reports are critically essential to strengthen the efforts to protect the Amazon rainforests. Furthermore, Brazil must tackle the possible effects of the drought-induced fires that are a part of their carbon budget. The new publications reveal important information for countries to urgently mitigate the increasing fire emissions in the tropical belt.

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