RSTV: IN DEPTH- AMAZON ON FIRE
The Amazon Rainforest is the world’s largest tropical forest. Sprawling over nine countries, it is about half the size of the United States of America…But for several weeks now, the forest also described as the lungs of the earth has been on fire. More than 9,500 new forest fires have been spotted by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research in just the last two weeks…prompting international alarm and calling for urgent action. According to forest experts, Amazon almost never burns on its own and the increase in fires this year has been quite dramatic. The region is usually too wet to ignite, so the vast majority of fires are largely believed to be caused by humans.
The world’s largest forest, the Amazon is on fire triggering global concerns over the forest also known as the “lungs of the planet”. Brazil has declared a state of emergency in the region while catastrophic fires spread to neighbouring Bolivia.
About Amazon Rainforest:
- The Amazon rainforest, also known in English as Amazonia or the Amazon Jungle, is a moist broadleaf tropical rainforest in the Amazon biome that covers most of the Amazon basin of South America.
- This basin encompasses 7,000,000 km2 (2,700,000 sq mi), of which 5,500,000 km2 (2,100,000 sq mi) are covered by the rainforest.
- This region includes territory belonging to nine nations.
- The majority of the forest is contained within Brazil, with 60% of the rainforest, followed by Peru with 13%, Colombia with 10%, and with minor amounts in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.
- The Amazon represents over half of the planet’s remaining rainforests, and comprises the largest and most biodiverse tract of tropical rainforest in the world.
- Home to 10% of known species in the world.
- More than 1500 birds species are found here.
- 5M insect species.
- 80% of food comes from Amazon.
- 25% of all pharmaceuticals ingredients.
- Less than 1% of trees and plants tested.
- Estimated 2,50,000 Amazon natives.
- Approximately 170 languages spoken.
- 50 Amazon native tribes still uncontacted.
- Nearly 20% of amazon forest has disappeared.
- It is disappearing at 1.5 acres per second.
- 137 species getting extinct everyday.
- Releases approximately 20 billion tons of moisture.
- Responsible for creating 50-75% of precipitation.
- Helps generate 70% of South America’s GDP.
- Stores upto 100 years worth of carbon emission.
Fires are the regular and natural occurrence in the Amazon during the dry seasons but environmentalists have attributed the record numbers of fires this year to human activities like deforestation. Brazil’s National Institute Space Research, recorded more than 74,000 fires in Brazil between January and August, highest since 2013. The country has seen an 84% increase in fires this year, compared with the same period last year.
This year’s fires also fit perfectly into the established seasonal agricultural pattern. This time is the most suitable to burn because the vegetation is dry. Farmers generally wait for the dry season to start burning and clearing areas so that their cattle can graze, However, peak of the dry season is yet to come in September.
Environmentalists blame Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro
The environmentalists are blaming Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for the forest fires. When Bolsonaro was running for president, he had promised to restore Brazil’s economy by exploring the economic potential of the Amazon rainforest. As per environmentalists, Bolsonaro has encouraged the farmers and ranchers to exploit and burn the rainforest like never before.
Effect of forest fires on biodiversity:
Amazon rainforest holds atleast 10% of the world’s biodiversity. As per latest reports more than 9000 forest fires has been ragging simultaneously.
- 50% of global water and this helps in cooling the Earth.
- Significant source of emitted carbon.
- Contribute to global warming that leads to biodiversity changes.
- At regional and local level will lead to change in biomass stocks, alter hydrological cycle.
- Subsequent effects for marine systems like coral reefs.
- Impact functioning of plant and animal species.
- Smokes from fires reduces photosynthetic activity and can be detrimental to the health of human and animals.
- Increased probability of further burning in subsequent years.
- As dead trees topple to the ground, open up forest to drying by sunlight.
- Consequences of repeated burns is detrimental as it is the key factor in the impoverishment of biodiversity in rainforest ecosystem.
- Replacement of vast areas of forest with grasslands is another negative ecological impact of fires in tropical rain forest.
Impact of Amazon Fires:
The impact can be short and long term.
- Fires taking massive tool on wildlife.
- Flames, heat, smoke in habitation having devastating impacts on vertebrates, invertebrates not only killing them directly but also leading to longer term indirect effects like stress, loss of habitat, territories, shelter and food.
- Loss of key organisms in forest ecosystem such as invertebrates, pollinators and decomposers can slow forest recovery rate.
- Vulnerable species may become more threatened and face extinction.
- Experts also say the entire ecosystem of rainforest will be altered.
- Surviving in transformed ecosystem difficult for many species.
- Displacements of territorial birds and mammals.
Forest fires have multiple implications on biodiversity. It is a loss for global community. The untold number of species of every kind of living thing, many thousands of which have never been described by scientists are suffering. We all need to come together to protect it. The United Nations and international community needs to take serious measures to protect this unique and irreplaceable units.
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