The Amazon rainforest is a biologically diverse region, a natural wonder that stretches from Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, and the smaller parts in different countries in the South Americas.
There is now an urgent need to save the Amazon Rainforest because of the new threat that was previously difficult to detect, confirmed NASA. Between 2000 and 2010, the deforested area spread like the size of U.K., reports Latino Fox News. The Amazon Information Network, states that in the 10-year period, the devastation claimed 93,000 square miles of rainforest. Authorities blamed illegal logging, exploration for oil and gas, construction of highways, and dams, mining, farming, and ranching. It turns out, that there is another problem that exacerbates the problem.
NASA found another culprit – understory fires may have accelerated the deforestation problem. In a report, NASA discovered that these hidden fires are responsible for burning up 3 percent of the Amazon rainforest or 33,000 square miles, in just twelve years. A new satellite imaging technology allows scientists to see the fires through the dense jungle canopy. These slow, creepy fires published in the Journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, destroy the rainforest several times more than deforestation every year.
While fires in the grassy areas can spread rapidly and create towering infernos, the small fires were hidden in the canopies of the forest, making it nearly undetected. Today, scientists can see them, thanks to the new Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiomete technology (MODIS).
Doug Morton lead author of a study in NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, says that human activity may cause the initial burning, such as cooking, smoking, and agricultural waste burning. However, they are not directly associated with deforestation activity, but the dryness, which is an indicator of fire’s risks.
NASA researchers found out that the understory fires can reach a few feet high but can burn for weeks, in a few feet per minute. In order to measure the destruction of the fires, Morton and his team of researchers observed the forest in the dry season, from June to August. They collected the data from the MODIS that tracks the timing and recovery of certain areas. The areas in the deforestation lack signs of recovery after two years, in contrast with the devastation of understory fires that showed signs of recovery after a year. Morton adds that the fire in relation to deforestation in Amazon rainforest is not unimportant, but the “fires” are the main source of carbon emission that needs consideration.
This study provides an understanding of the scope of carbon dioxide emission estimates. Morton agrees that more study in necessary, to look at climate mechanisms that cause the Amazon to burn, aside from human source of ignition. The University of California, in Irvine researchers are using the data collected from NASA MODIS, to help scientists predict the mechanisms of fire.
The information derived from the satellite-based measurements, indicated the amount of moisture in the region may be the major cause of fires. Yang Chen, the lead researcher and his team found out that the water estimates taken from GRACE or NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, allows them to monitor the development of dry conditions during the fire season. The study shows that in the low water in storage I, the soil can lead to a drier (near ground) atmosphere, which results to more flammable vegetation and fuel availability. In light of this new finding, the low-water soil condition can be detected several months before the fire season in the Amazon Rainforest starts.
Written by: Janet Grace Ortigas