“Human action has changed the capacity of the forest to resist to fire (…) it has been changed due to several reasons, deforestation itself being one of them”.
Listen to Ane Alencar, geologist (IPAM), in an excerpt from episode 3
Cacalos Garrastazu/Eder Content
A FOREST ON FIRE
When scientists look at the fires in the Amazon, they see much more than we do, who are not biologists, geologists, and climatologists, studying nature and climate change. For researchers and specialists, the increase in fires means higher greenhouse gas emissions. Burned areas mean that the forest will have more degraded areas. It is a scientific language used in scientists’ warnings in interviews and documents, but that not everyone is able to understand.
We asked geologist Ane Alencar, director of science at the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM), how fire degrades the forest and impacts Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets.
Invisible Amazon – What do fires have to do with Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions?
Ane Alencar – The fire that reaches the Amazon Forest impacts the amount of carbon in that forest. And when it is burned down, greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere, thus generating more emissions. The impact of fire on these forests that have been burned at least once in the Amazon represents a 20% to 25% reduction in carbon stocks.
Invisible Amazon – Why is it said that fires increase forest degradation?
Ane Alencar – Degradation means a change in the structure of the forest. Therefore, if the forest has a lot of big trees, it will then have smaller trees since the big trees will die as they burn. Or if that forest has a high diversity of species, that diversity is going to be reduced since only species that tolerate fire are going to be able to stay there, depending on the frequency. So, basically, it is a change in the structure, the wealth, and the role performed by this forest. A forest with fewer trees will, for example, evaporate less. It will release less water into the atmosphere, so this will have an impact on the ecosystem, it will have less carbon.
Invisible Amazon – Is it true that indigenous people are responsible for the fires in the Amazon Forest?
Ane Alencar – Inside the indigenous lands, the percentage of deforestation and fire is very small compared to that of the biome as a whole. In the hotspots recorded in 2019 and 2020, only 7% to 8% of the total occurred within indigenous territories, that’s not much. And, in the case of deforestation, 5% to 3% of deforestation recorded in the entire biome occurred within indigenous lands. And these indigenous lands are those being invaded, occupied by illegal mining, and illegal logging as well.
“The fire detection system shows trends of when the fire will start, it is not something that comes suddenly. From the monthly data provided, it is possible to prevent fire from spreading, to contain it by means of inspection.”
– Antonio Victor Fonseca, forest engineer at Imazon