Amazon Rainforest is a global concern and feared to have been damaged by fire. Periodic fires are nothing new to the Amazon Rainforest. However, in 2015, there has been a significant increase in reported fires. The Ecologist reports that within the last five weeks, over 18,000 fires have occurred. Furthermore, increased levels of carbon into the atmosphere has negatively impacted air quality throughout the region.
The Ecologist credits the El Niño phenomenon as having contributed to increased temperatures. Elevated temperatures have resulted in the dry season being longer as well as having affected rainfall throughout the region.
The report further states that farmers preparing fields for planting are thought to have started fires. However controlled, fires frequently move out of controlled areas into forests.
Fires initially starting out small and relatively harmless resulted in immense damage to the rainforest. Slash and burn techniques are the prevailing method by farmers to prepare land for planting in savannas and temperate forests. However, rainforests are not as accustomed to slash and burning. Subsequently, rain forests are vulnerable to unintended damage. The Ecologist reports that the Amazon Rainforest has experienced approximately 50 percent of its largest trees killed as a result of human created fires.
According to a report by The Daily Mail, in terms of biomass and biodiversity, scientists are uncertain how long regrowth will take. Open gaps in the forest canopy expose areas of the forest to sunlight that in the past had not been the norm. Increase temperature, as well as changes in humidity, leave these areas susceptible to repeated burning.
Brazilian officials have consistently come out against illegal logging and farming in an attempt to slow deforestation. The Daily Mail reports that government efforts are falling short as the destruction of Brazil’s Amazon has jumped by 16 percent in 2015 from the previous year. The report indicates that as 2015 comes to a close, between 36 and 57 percent of the 16,000 species of trees in the rainforest will be classified as being threatened with extinction.
Amazon Rainforest is a global concern as deforestation increases. Euronews reports that efforts by the Brazil’s National Institute of Amazonian Research have partnered with Germany’s Max Planck Institute to study the effect that deforestation is having on the Earth’s atmosphere. The Amazon Tower Observatory Project (ATTO) is a joint effect by these institutes. Measuring 325 meters high, an ATTO tower has been constructed in the Amazon Rainforest. In an interview with Euronews, Jurgen Kessemelmeier German Coordinator of the ATTO Project explains that the towers are mainly examining greenhouse gasses such as CO2, methane, N2O, and ozone. Kessemelmeier theorizes that increases in these gasses correlate with atmospheric temperature increases.
Antonio Manzi, a researcher at INPA, explained to Independent that along with measuring atmospheric gas, cloud formation and the effect of global warming on photosynthesis by plants would be examined. Manzi expressed concern over the increase of fires as well as frequent droughts in the region. Launched in 2009, the ATTO Project is expected to collect data for 30 years in order to form a climate profile. Manzi expressed hope that a 30-year climate profile would be useful in mitigating deforestation in the Amazon.
Amazon Rainforest is a global concern prompting Peru to become the latest of the Amazon nations to take steps to slow deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest. U.S. nonprofit organization, The Rainforest Trust announced the establishment of Sierra del Divisor National Park in Peru. On Nov. 5, 2015, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala approved the creation of a 3.3 million acre national park at Sierra Divisor. The Rainforest Trust in collaboration with the Center for the Development of Indigenous Amazon (CEDIA), numerous NGO’s, and organizations in Peru have been instrumental in moving this initiative forward. Extending more than 1,100 miles from the banks of the Amazon in Brazil to the Peruvian Andes, the Sierra del Divisor National Park is the first of several global conservation initiatives.
By Garrett Sayers
Edited by Leigh Haugh
The Ecologist: 18,00 Fires Rage in Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest
Daily Mail: Brazil’s Vanishing Jungle – Haunting Images From the Amazon Shed Light on Ongoing Destruction of World’s Largest Intact Rainforest
Euronews: Tracking the Gases In The Amazon Rainforest
Independent: Amazon Tall Observatory Gives Scientists The Big Picture of The Rainforest
Image Courtesy of WikiMedia Commons – Public Domain License