This year’s Amazon fire season was milder than the previous two years, but there were still nearly 1,000 major fires, many of them in recently cleared areas in the Brazilian Amazon, highlighting a key link between deforestation and fires.
Using ground and atmospheric data, the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project(MAAP) documented 983 major fires in the Amazon this year, which affected almost 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres), an area larger than all of Yellowstone National Park. The fires, like deforestation, were largely concentrated in the southern and eastern Amazon. Roads providing access to those areas of the Amazon are a key factor in fire locations, said MAAP director Matt Finer.
“For Peru and Brazil, anyway, it’s a very tight correlation between roads and fires,” Finer told Mongabay, pointing out where highways cut through areas with the highest concentrations of fires on the map on his computer screen.
The Brazilian Amazon accounted for 72% of the major fires this year, and of those, 71% were human-caused fires in areas that had been deforested within the last three years. But in some cases, when MAAP researchers looked back in time at satellite images of the fire coordinates, they found forest standing at the beginning of the year, which was later deforested and then burned in May or June to clear the debris.
MAAP also documented close to 100 major human-caused fires of standing forest in the Brazilian Amazon, burning roughly 110,000 hectares (about 272,000 acres). Fires that started in pasture or recently deforested areas may have escaped and spread, which was likely a key factor in severe fires seasons in drier years.
“We still documented almost 1,000 major fires [across the Amazon],” said Finer. “It was still a bad fire season because the deforestation is still so high, but it wasn’t catastrophic like 2020,” when MAAP calculated some 2.2. million hectares (5.4 million acres) of forest had burned.
This year, of the 983 major fires, the Bolivian Amazon accounted for 15%, the Peruvian Amazon accounted for 12% and the Colombian Amazon accounted for just 1%. MAAP recognized the Colombian figures were an underestimate because the fire season there, which occurs much earlier than the other countries, started before the project began collecting data — which is sourced and analyzed differently than by other fire mapping efforts.
Source – Mongabay News