Amazon wildfires: Scenes from a foreseeable disaster

15 de maio de 2020

maio 15, 2020

Paulo Brando, Marcia Macedo, Divino Silvério, Ludmila Rattis, Lucas Paolucci, Ane Alencar, Michael Coe, Cristina Amorim

The Amazon forests main protection against fire is its capacity to create a moist understory microclimate. Roads, deforestation, droughts, and climate change have made this natural firebreak less effective. The southern Amazon, in particular, has become more flammable and vulnerable to wildfires during recent droughts. The drought of 1997/98 first showed that fires could escape from agricultural fields and burn standing primary forests that were once considered impenetrable to fire. The spread of forest fires during other 21st-century droughts suggests that this pattern may well be the new normal. With the landscape becoming more flammable, reducing sources of ignition and the negative effects of deforestation is crucial for avoiding severe degradation of Amazon forests. Unfortunately, recent increases in deforestation suggest that Brazil is moving in the opposite direction. Keeping pace with the rapid changes in the regions fire regimes would require innovation; cooperation across political boundaries; and interagency communication on a scale never seen before. While Brazils past success in reducing deforestation suggests that it could be an effective leader in this regard, its sluggish response to the 2019 fires tells quite a different story. But the fact remains that the future of the Amazon depends on decisive action now.

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Deforestation around the world

Deforestation around the world

The study-cases reported here may call attention for the velocity we are losing our forests in a planetary scale and for inestimable impact that will have in human life quality, in wild life, in water, soil and air and in the world economy. To keep it short, it won’t be a surprise if the cost to fix the losses would overcome the investments we have done to achieve the present unsustainable development.