Amazon Rainforest Fire: The Ecological Implications
The Amazon rainforest is burning, and it is terrible news for the world!
The news coverage all over the world is referring to the Amazon forest as the “lungs of the planet.”
It is because this rain forest provides 20% of the earth’s oxygen and absorbs 5% carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
This is why the burning of the green patches of Amazon is a global emergency.
Satellite images show that since the Amazon started burning, there have been 9507 fires raging!
By the time this write-up gets published, the fire would have engulfed more of the Amazon forest, and will further push our planet to the tipping point of climate change.
The real challenge, however, will start after the fire dies down. The media hype goes away, and people’s memory fades.
Scientists fear that the substantial loss of the rainforest may trigger deforestation in the region. If that happens, it will be another struggle to keep the earth’s temperature in check.
The impact of this fire is already evident in various regions in Latin America, including the Atlantic coast and Sao Paulo in Brazil.
In fact, on Monday, Aug. 19, billowed smoke from the fire had covered Sao Paulo, and the city plunged into the darkness around 3:00 pm. Later, when the rain came down, the raindrops smelled like smoke.
The fire could be seen from space as well. The Sentinel satellite of the European Union Earth Observation Program captured images of the smoke over Amazonas, Rondonia, and other areas.
The Background behind the mishap
The vast Amazon rainforest covers a total area of 2,100,000 square miles or 5,500,00km².
Nearly 60% of the rainforest is in Brazil, and the remaining of the forest falls in Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana.
Human tribes have inhabited the Amazon forest for a minimum of 11,000 years, and it is home to more than 30 million people. Around two-thirds of this population live in cities after banishing some of the greenery.
Nearly one million indigenous people live in the Amazon forest region, which is divided into about 400 tribes.
Most of the tribes live in villages, and each of them has their distinct language and culture. These tribes completely blend with the surrounding nature and its wildlife.
Now, when a mishap like a forest fire happens, these tribes and wildlife suffer the most.
Usually, the Amazon rainforest remains wet and humid. However, July and August are the driest months in this region, and the incidents of forest fires happen a lot.
A report says that the instances of forest fires have gone up by 85% since 2018 alone.
Most of the instances of the fire were, however, not natural. Because of clearing out the land for farming or ranching, humans often start fires.
This time around, the real reason why the fire broke out is unknown.
Even though drought can be a reason behind the rainforest fires, researchers have mentioned that there is nothing unusual about the climate or the amount of rainfall in the Amazon this year.
In the states like Mato Grosso and Para in Brazil, the expansion of agricultural activities has pushed into the forest basin and has resulted in more deforestation and wildfires.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, more than a quarter of the Amazon forest will lose its greenery by 2030, if the current rate of deforestation keeps happening.
The Affected Countries
In the beginning, we talked about the surrounding of the Amazon forest such as Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, and others. More or less, these countries will take the brunt of this massive fire.
If we go by the satellite images, the states in Brazil such as Amazonas, Rondonia, Para, and Mato Grosso are the most affected by this fire.
The long-term impact of this fire and the resulting damage to the Amazon will go far beyond Brazil and its neighbouring countries.
The rainforest in this region is home to 10% of the world’s biodiversity.
Besides the loss of trees, the loss of wildlife will drastically transform the whole region for worse. From farming to drinking water, everything will be affected.
The World Meteorological Organization has already stated that fire will release pollutants and toxic gases into the atmosphere, and they may cause health hazards.
According to the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), so far, there have been instances of more than 74,000 in 2019. The latest fire will aggravate the worsening of the environment.
The reason being, the Amazon rainforest is considered as a key element to combat against global warming due to its ability to absorb carbon from the air.
Now, the fire destroying the forest will have a major impact on nature’s balance.
According to Greenpeace, a non-government environmental organization, with the spreading out of the fire, greenhouse gas emissions will increase substantially.
Because of that, the overall temperature of the planet will rise. As the temperature goes up, extreme weather events like droughts will happen more often.
Additionally, deforestation will have a direct impact on the patterns of rainfall in the affected region.
The areas surrounding the Amazon forest will have an extended length of the dry season, and will further affect forests, biodiversity, and agriculture.
Well, there is more to the environmental impact as there will be long-term effects as a result of this fire.
The World Wide Fund for Nature’s (WWF) Amazon program has mentioned that an increase in the forest fire can be disastrous for the rainforest as it could turn into a savanna.
Scientists further stated that deforestation, climate change, and widespread fire might push the Amazon forest and the climate to the edge.
The region is already on the verge of deforestation. The current rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is nearly 17%.
According to the data collected by The National Institute for Space Research (INPE), there has been a sharp increase rise in deforestation rates. The data mainly shows that in July 2109, deforestation went up nearly 300% compared to the same month in 2018.
Environmentalists are quite concerned about deforestation in Brazil and the surrounding areas for commercial purposes. Due to the emission of carbon dioxide due to the fire, the air becomes unsuitable for breathing.
People in Brazil have collected black water from the rainfall after the massive cloud of smoke covered São Paulo.
An environmental scientist at the Federal University of Pará in Brazil said it is a sign of an increased amount of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide emissions.
As the Amazon fire spreads out, scientists have raised alarm as it has perished a large portion of wildlife and disrupted their natural habitats.
A new report by WWF shows that already there has been a 53% decline of wildlife species in the past 40 years. Forest fires like this put even more pressure on vulnerable wildlife.
According to researchers of the Ohio State University’s School of Environment and Natural Resources, the fire is likely to have a significant impact on wildlife in the short-term. The reason being, many species in the Amazon won’t be able to survive the flame.
Animals such as lizards, sloths, frogs, and anteaters may, unfortunately, perish in massive numbers than other animals because of their small size and lack of mobility.
In addition, aquatic species may also be affected by the fire as it will change the water chemistry and turning it into something unsuitable for life.
Long-term effects could be more disastrous. The fire has destroyed parts of the dense canopy in the rainforest. Thus, it has exposed the lower levels of the ecosystem, and may subsequently alter the energy flow of the food chain.
With the loss of the Amazon forest, climate change will aggravate.
The catastrophic effect of the fire on biodiversity is not just a problem for Brazil. It will also perish a large area of Amazonian vegetation across South America and other regions.
The government in Brazil has set an ambitious target to prevent illegal deforestation and restore 4.8 million hectares of degraded land in the Amazon forest by 2030.
If the country falls short on these goals, it will be even more challenging to slow down climate change.
According to the Paris Climate Agreement, countries that have signed the agreement, need to keep global warming to below 2°C compared with pre-industrial levels.
Fires like this will, however, make it difficult to achieve that goal.
A study found that though deforestation is the main threat to the tree species in the Amazon, climate change may make the situation worse in the coming decades.
The research further shows that a combination of impacts related to climate, including increased dryness, along with deforestation, may perish nearly 60% of Amazon tree species.
In the absence of any effective climate policies or programs to limit deforestation, the Amazonian lowland rainforest could be fragmented.
In such a scenario, the ecosystem in the Amazon will be far less capable of absorbing and storing carbon. The biodiversity will be at the receiving end of such alarming climate change. It will be such a tipping point beyond which the forest will not be able to recover.
Even in the best-case scenario, nearly 50% of tree species in the Amazon forest will have the threat of perishing in the future.
After some controversies, the Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro announced to send 43,000 troops to combat the Amazon fire.
Also, the government sent two Brazilian C-130 Hercules military planes to the state of Rondonia to extinguish the massive fire. The warplanes are dumping thousands of gallons of water on the burning forests.
The president of Bolivia’, Evo Morales, made a plan to send a Boeing 747 “Supertanker” to help douse the fire. The Supertanker can carry 115,000 litres (more than 30,000 gallons) of water.
Responses by other countries across the world
Countries across the world have reacted with shock and then pledged to work together to fight the massive Amazon rainforest fire.
The French President Emmanuel Macron stated that G7 countries would release $22m (£18m) as financial support. G7 countries include France, Germany, Canada, Italy, Japan, the US, and the UK.
The announcement about the funding was made during the summit of the G7 leaders in Biarritz, France.
Mr. Macron mentioned that funds would be mainly for paying for more fire-fighting planes and also said France would provide support with the military in the region.
G7 leaders also plan to discuss the ways to reforest the Amazon, at the United Nations general assembly meeting to be held in September.
The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau pledged to give $15 million to send water bombers to help fighting Amazon fires.
Mr. Trudeau made this statement during his closing speech and making a statement on climate change and the Amazon forest fires at the G7 Summit.
The US President Donald Trump tweeted that he offered to help Brazil stop the Amazon forest fires.
Also, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered support, and the Brazilian president accepted it as he tweeted.
The President of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro expressed concern about the devastating rainforest fire and offered help to extinguish it. In addition, the Venezuelan Chancellery expressed its solidarity with the indigenous communities in Brazil, Paraguay, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru.
The government of Bolivia has proposed a meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO) through a letter.
Finland’s Prime Minister, Antti Rinne made a statement saying that the raging fires in Brazil were quite serious and that he contacted the European Commission.
Mr. Rinne also mentioned that Amazon rainforests are vital to the world’s climate. He is worried about the situation because the fires are a danger to the entire civilization.
Additionally, a UK Member of Parliament Rebecca Long-Bailey sent a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. She requested him to convey the message to President Bolsonaro to do everything to prevent this destruction.
Reactions by People
There has been a public outcry since the images and videos of the Amazon forest fire started doing the rounds.
People all over the world began sharing the news on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to garner support.
Also, pictures and news of the Amazon fire could be found in plenty of Facebook posts.
In Zurich, activists from the Klimastreik Ecological Movement and Brazilians gathered outside the Brazilian Consulate demanding quick action to douse the fire.
In Dublin, the Extinction Rebellion Collective protested at the Brazilian Embassy.
There have also been demonstrations in Barcelona, Paris, London, Madrid, and Copenhagen.
Sierra Club, an environmental organization, talked about a strategy to protect forests in the US and elsewhere.
Particularly, regarding the Amazon forest, the Club urged international lenders and institutions to rethink their investments in Brazil. It expressed concern against the exploitation and destruction by humans of a critical resource like the Amazon forests.
Support from the Non-government Organizations (NGOs)
The European policy office of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released a statement.
In the statement, WWF calls on countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela, and other South American countries to prevent deforestation and prevent the causes behind such fires.
WWF also addressed the European Union (EU) and its member states to join hands in their efforts to curb the impact of EU consumption on deforestation.
The destruction of other ecosystems all over the world has a link to commodities such as palm oil, soy, cocoa or meat, WWF further added.
Also, NGOs such as the Amazon Aid Foundation, Amazon Watch, Rainforest Alliance, Ecosia.org, and others are raising funds. They are also spreading awareness among people to protect the Amazon and other forests in the world.
Towards the end of this article, you will find the “How can you help?” section, where donation links to various NGOs will be mentioned. You can donate for raising funds to help combat this fire.
Currently, the global media is using every possible opportunity to cover the Amazon rainforest fire. Images and videos of the fire and destruction are everywhere.
Many people, however, have already expressed their anger and criticized that the media woke up a little too late to bring news of this devastating fire.
The fire was already burning for three weeks, and there was hardly any serious news coverage barring a few.
The Amazon rainforest is extremely important for our earth as it sucks out at least 5% carbon dioxide that we humans emit through industrialization and other ways.
The largest rainforest in the world has nearly three million species of animals and plants, along with one million people, who belong almost 400 different tribes.
Social media users, mainly Twitter and Facebook, criticized the media for not giving due attention to the rainforest fires. People also called out billionaires for their lack of donations.
The crisis is worsening with each passing moment as the parts of precious rainforest is engulfed by the raging fire.
People around the world are furious at news and media outlets for not shedding light on this serious matter and provide them with updated information.
Earlier this year, when the fire broke out at Notre-Dame de Paris, the world came to know about the incident within three minutes of the first flame due to media coverage.
The number of donations pledged by celebrities after Notre-Dame fire was way higher than the amount required to make the total structural repair of the cathedral.
Then why such reluctance to cover the Amazon fire, which will have a serious environmental impact?
Leonardo DiCaprio, Hollywood superstar, and environmentalist have questioned the media about their lack of coverage of the ongoing fire. He shared his concern on Instagram.
After a wave of backlash on social media, major news agencies such as CNN, BBC, CNBC, Fox News, and major newspapers/magazines including New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Forbes, and others started covering this news.
Responses by Celebrities
An increasing number of celebrities are raising their voices about the potential global catastrophe.
Many celebrities demanding accountability from the Brazilian government and urged them to stop encouraging farmers, ranchers, and loggers to exploit and burn the Amazon rainforest.
Meanwhile, the Hollywood celebrity Leonardo DiCaprio has pledged to donate $5 million to combat the destructive fire. He has also added a donation link on his Instagram profile.
Other celebrities such as Jaden Smith, Jameela Jamil, and John Cusack took to social media to express their concern about the raging fire.
Celebrity American singer Madonna has urged the Brazilian President Bolsonaro to change policies that will help not only Brazil but also the entire planet.
The famous Portuguese soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo was vocal and actively publicized the crisis.
Other celebrities, who have posted their anguish over this catastrophe include the Noah Cyrus, younger sister of the US singer Miley Cyrus; Cuban-American singer Camila Cabello; producer Miguel, and Queer Eye host Bobby Berk.
What is the Long-term Solution?
As the Amazon rainforest is burning to ashes, the governments including Brazil, Bolivia, and Canada, have sent planes to pour thousands of gallons of water to douse the fire.
In the current situation, those are maybe the only realistic steps to extinguish the blazing fire. However, here we are talking about long-term solutions, which is the aftermath of the fire.
Canadian researcher, Barbara Zimmerman spent decades researching in the Amazon rainforest with indigenous tribes.
Ms. Zimmerman commented that sending water bombers is just a temporary solution. The real issue lies elsewhere.
According to her, the entire issue is the lack of law enforcement in Brazil. As long as that keeps happening, instances like this will take in the future as well.
The National Space Research Institute in Brazil has revealed that a total of 76,720 forest fires have already burned the forests across the country in 2019.
Even though the Brazilian government has already created a political framework to prevent illegal deforestation in the Amazon region, it is still a persistent problem.
According to some experts, forest fire management could be a long-term solution.
Developing a program that shows how and when forest and savanna burn and managing them can prevent the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
The idea of forest fire mitigation has three steps:
- Identify fires in fire-prone forests to bring down carbon emissions.
- Identify early-season burns in the savanna to prevent higher carbon emissions from late-season burns.
- Practice fire control measures in the Amazon forests to prevent unintended fires that cause loss to the forest.
Conservationists need to consider it is not possible to know the exact location of future wildfires. This is why fire management must happen routinely across a large forest region.
Currently, there are also private global agreements, for example, the Amazon Beef and Soy Moratorium. Under such an agreement, companies unanimously decide not to buy soy or cattle linked to illegal deforestation.
There are many diplomatic, political, and financial tools that can work to prevent the deforestation of the Amazon, and prevent such instances of deadly fires. It is time to wake up!
How Can You Help?
As mentioned before, here is a list of the donation links. Through these links, you can donate to the world’s most renowned NGOs that have been fighting for years to combat such ecological catastrophes:
- Donate to the Amazon Conservation Team. This organization fights to prevent climate change, protect the Amazon forest, and empower indigenous tribes. You can help plant trees, protect habitats, buy a solar panel, and preserve lands.
- Donate to Amazon Watch, a non-profit organization, which protects the rainforest, defends indigenous rights and works on the climate change issue.
- The World Wide Fund for Nature (or the World Wildlife Fund) works relentlessly to protect the Amazon species and to maintain the biodiversity around the world.
- Donate to Ecosia.org, which is a search engine that plants a tree for every 45 searches of a user.
- Check with Rainforest Alliance to make sure the stuff you are buying is rainforest-safe. You can also purchase rainforest-safe products from the website.
- Donate to Rainforest Action Network. Your contribution will help protect an acre in the Amazon rainforest.
- Contribute to the Rainforest Trust to help it buy land in the rainforest. This organization has saved more than 23 million acres since 1988.
- Go through the Change.org petition to save the burning of the Amazon forest fire.
- Donate to One Tree Planted that works on preventing deforestation in the Amazon rainforest and all over the world.
- Sign the petition of Greenpeace to ask the Brazilian government to save the Amazon rainforest and protect the indigenous tribes.
The Way Forward
The blazing fire that is destroying South America’s Amazon rainforest is not just a problem for Brazil and its ecosystem.
The largest in the world, the Amazon rainforest covers more than eight countries. It means the current catastrophe will have an impact on all these countries. The loss of trees and other vegetation may result in soil erosion, desertification, flooding, increased greenhouse gas emissions. Overall, it will be ecological chaos.
Additionally, due to deforestation in the Amazon, animal and plant species will perish. So, by all means, it has turned out to be a global crisis.
Countries all over the world and global organizations need to collaborate to combat this situation.
The first priority would be devising a strategy to restore the part of the rainforest that is destroyed in the fire.
Since the early days, Sumit has been deeply concerning for the climate crisis and always felt hurt seeing how the human intervention is disrupting the ecological balance. He 100% believes that solar energy is the missing puzzle to our energy transition, and we have to go all out to implement this energy solution all over the world.