The Brazilian Amazon is burning — and the world is taking notice.
So far this year, more than 76,000 wildfires have burned in Brazil — the majority in the Amazon — amounting to an increase of more than 80% over the same time period last year, according to the country’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE).
Brazil contains about 60% of the Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest. Several million plant, animal and insect species live in the Amazon, and it acts as a huge carbon sink that helps to cool global temperatures.
An increase in people illegally clearing land for agricultural activities and a decrease in the enforcement of environmental laws are the reason for the surge in fires in the Amazon, says José Antonio Marengo, a climatologist at the National Centre for Monitoring and Early Warning of Natural Disasters in São Paulo. “Loggers use fire to illegally clear land, mostly for pasture or crops,” he says. And dry season conditions, which occur roughly between June and November, exacerbate the fires, he adds.
More than 39,000 fires have ignited in the Amazon rainforest this year. And the country’s western savannah — Brazil’s most threatened biome — has seen almost 23,000 fires since January.
The Burning Amazon Rainforest
For weeks now, forest fires have been burning across Brazil’s Amazon rainforest—generally a normal situation in the dry season, but the fires are much worse than normal this year. Brazil’s official numbers now tally more than 79,500 fires this year—more than half of those in the Amazon, making this the “most active fire year in that region since 2010.” The majority of these fires are intentional, set by farmers and ranchers to clear fields and open up land for grazing.