Case Study, News

Amazon Fires: Deforestation and Nature’s Demise

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Amazon is still burning. It is still a shocking sight. And while everyone is worried about it, we simply get the impression that “does anyone care?”. It has been burning for quite a few years, in large or small scales, but the 2019 Amazon fires are far beyond a national disaster.

Reports indicate that fires naturally and regularly occur in Amazon in the dry season, but the occurrence rate and intensity of fires have substantially increased, and many believe not they are not all caused by natural incidents. Between January and August, about 73,000 fires were reported in Brazil by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE). Since August 15, INPE marked more than 9500 new fires in the country. The smoke rising from the Amazon region reached Sao Paolo on the Atlantic coast on August 9, 2019, and turned the day into the night in that city for a while.

Some scientists have warned if the tree loss in the Amazon is to pass a certain degree, like 25 and 40 percent, deforestation can feed on itself and “lead to the demise of the forest within a matter of decades”, David Child of Aljazeera reports.

The warnings on environmental changes and the impacts of increasing human intervention in the environment have been around for many years. Despite all that, many people in charge did not or could not take the necessary actions to prevent it, and, as a result, we have witnessed massive impacts in recent years. From the extinction of many species and destruction of habitats to heavy floods on the land of humankind and the critical issue of global warming.

 

 Image Source: blog.wholesomeculture.com

 

Amazon, the biggest tropical rainforest on earth, is known as the primary source for oxygen, said to be providing about one-fifth of the oxygen on the planet, but some scientists believe that it is an overestimation and call it merely a myth. Nevertheless, Amazon absorbs a big percentage of harmful carbon and is seen as a vital element in slowing down the pace of global warming. Experts consider the Amazon forest as the most significant climate stabilizer among all-natural ecosystems. Big fires release large amounts of CO₂ into the atmosphere. And CO₂ as a greenhouse gas contributes to global warming and climate change.

Natural resources are the biggest treasures for humankind. They are not always renewable or replaceable, and our lives depend on them. Studies show that. According to the conversation.com, “the plants and animals living in the Amazon don’t have the traits needed to survive a big fire and regenerate after the blaze. This is because fires were not very common before humans settled in the area”. Therefore, over the years, it can turn to a very different ecosystem with different species.

Image Source: Pete Oxford/Corbis

 

Camila Silva, Ph.D. Candidate in Lancaster University says “as the forest grows back [after the fires], they are replaced by smaller trees, which are mainly softwood species. These smaller trees grow fast, but have a shorter lifespan (between five and 30 years) and don’t amass much carbon in their trunks. It may take hundreds of years for the larger hardwood species to grow back and reach the forest canopy. As fires become more frequent and intense, the chances of the rainforest recovering decline”.

But who is responsible for all that? Many local residents, environmentalists, and NGOs believe that not all Amazon fires are caused by natural causes. After the election of Jair Bolsonaro, deforestation in the Amazon reached new levels. Rachel Garrett, professor at Boston University studying land use in Brazil states that clearing land and cutting trees is mostly done for agricultural purposes.

 

Image Source: nationofchange.org

 

On the basis of data released by the National Institute for Space Research of Brazil, roughly three thousand square miles of the Brazilian Amazon were deforested in 2018 and in 2019 it was much worse. According to research by the Amazon Environmental Research Institute, the rate of deforestation in July 2019 was 278 percent higher compared to the same period in 2018.

Bolsonaro has big plans for infrastructure developments in the Amazon area, most notably building dams, in order to provide electricity for the purpose of industrialization and new roads and waterways for facilitating the supply of national products like soybeans to the international market. Robert T. Walker, a professor at the University of Florida believes “If Bolsonaro’s plan moves forward, he estimates that fully 40 percent of the Amazon could be deforested”. The Brazilian president has repeatedly denied the accusations. He also blames the weather for the fires.

 

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