About 17.5% of Brazil has burned at least once in the last 20 years

4 de December de 2020 | News

Dec 4, 2020 | News

In the past 20 years, 1.5 million square kilometers of Brazil, or about 17.5% of its territory, have burned at least once. It is almost the entire Northeast region. When it caught fire, most of the area, 68%, was covered with native vegetation, while 32% was used for agriculture, including activities such as clearing land for pasture and recently deforested terrains. On average, an area of ​​177,000 km2 burns every year, or 2.1% of the country.

The new data are part of an initiative launched today (3/12), MapBiomas Fogo. For the first time, information on the area burned each year in Brazil is consolidated from 2000 to 2019, with location, frequency and the type of coverage and associated land use, such as forest, savanna, agriculture or pasture, among others. It is part of the 5th annual collection of maps of coverage and land use in Brazil of the MapBiomas project, available at http://platform.mapbiomas.org.

More than 330,000 km² of the existing forests in Brazil today have caught fire in the last 20 years and of these, 195 thousand km 2 (59%) have burned twice or more. “Fire in tropical forests is not natural. It is caused mainly by human action fed by a drier environment, which makes the fire escape from a pasture or a deforested area, for example, and enter the forest ”, explains the director of Science at IPAM (Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazonia), Ane Alencar, coordinator of the group that did the work. “The high frequency in some regions reinforces the human role in this process of degradation.”

This is what happens in the Amazon: 28.7% of the total area burned in 20 years was recorded there, in an environment where fire should be rare – half of the 427,000 km2 affected burned more than once in the same place. Without man, fire in this biome occurs every 500 to a 1,000 years.

In terms of area, the Cerrado was the most affected biome in the period: 41% of its extension was affected by fire at least once, and 76% of what burned there was native vegetation. “The Cerrado, unlike the Amazon, is a biome that has evolved with fire. Even so, changes in the landscape can have an impact on the incidence of fires ”, explains Alencar.

When considering land tenure aspects, 59% of the area burned over the past 20 years was within private areas, 18% in protected areas and 6% in settlements.

High in 2019
In the last year, more than 203,000 km2 were burned, representing 2.4% of the territory, 72% of which occurred in native vegetation and 28% in places of agricultural use. The area burned in 2019 was 55% larger than in 2018, when fire scars totaled 130,500 km2 .

When we look at the growth by biome, the Pantanal showed an unbelievable 996% increase in burnt area in 2019 compared to 2018. In the Amazon, the burnt area grew 65%. In the Cerrado, the expansion of the area affected by the fire was 40%.

“Mapping is fundamental to understanding the fire regime in Brazil, which leads to the degradation of native vegetation and has an impact on people’s health, climate change, biodiversity and the economy”, says the coordinator of MapBiomas, Tasso Azevedo.

The MapBiomas Fogo platform will provide data on fire scars every year, from 2000 to 2019, indicating the affected land use coverage. Data on accumulated areas and frequency of scarring are also available for each of the biomes, states, municipalities, hydrographic basins and protected areas of Brazil.

MapBiomas is a multi-institutional initiative, involving universities, NGOs and technology companies, focused on monitoring changes in land cover and use in Brazil. This platform is today the most complete, updated and detailed spatial database of land use in a country available in the world. Other MapBiomas initiatives are under development in Indonesia, across the Pan-Amazon, in addition to Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and Uruguay. All MapBiomas data, maps, methods and codes are made available publicly and free of charge on the initiative’s website: mapbiomas.org

More information for the press:

Cristina Amorim, (61) 99127-6994, cristina.amorim@ipam.org.br

This project is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Find out more at un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals.

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