Scientists have said that the fires that raged across the Amazon show that the summer of 2019 were not normal, and the large increase of deforestation could be the reason why.
The scale of the fires in the Amazon have received global attention, however, international concerns raised at the time were countered by the Brazilian Government, which claimed the fire situation in August was ‘normal’ and bellow the historic average.
An international team of scientist stated in the Global Change Biology that the number of active fires in August was three times higher than 2018 and the highest number since 2010.
Despite fires occurring in the Amazon for a number of reasons, the scientists show that there is strong evidence to link this year’s fires to increases in deforestation.
Researchers used evidence collected from the Brazilian Government’s DETER-b deforestation detection system, which calculates deforestation be interpreting images taken by NASA satellites.
The study shows that deforestation in July this year was almost four times the average from the same period in the previous three years. This is important as deforestation is almost always followed by fire, the cut vegetation is left to dry before being burned.
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 Brazilian Government that August 2019 was a normal fire month in the Amazon.”
The fires in August occurred at a time without drought, drought often creates conditions favourable to the spread of man-made fires. Scientist also showed that the smoke plumes from the fires could have been caused by the combustion of large amounts of biomass.
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.
“Brazil has for the past decade been an environmental leader, showing to the world that it can successfully reduce deforestation. It is both economically and environmentally unwise to revert this trend.”
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