According to new research by a team of international researchers, it has concluded that the 2019 Amazon wildfires should not be considered “normal” despite such claims made earlier this year by the Brazilian Government, adding that increased deforestation has likely led to an above-average fire year.
The number of active fires in August of this year was three times higher than in 2018 and the highest since 2010. It is unclear what was burning to create so many fires, and researchers at Lancaster University say that pinpointing fuel types is crucial to understanding impacts and identifying potential solutions.
“Managing Amazonian fires requires understanding what is burning, what drives contagion and extent, and how different drivers combine to make the Amazon more flammable,” write the authors in Global Change Biology.
“The marked upturn in both active fire counts and deforestation in 2019, therefore, refutes suggestions by the Brazilian government that August 2019 was a normal fire month in the Amazon,” said study lead author Jos Barlow of Lancaster University in a statement.
Wildfires are normal for parts of the Amazon rainforest in the late summer and early fall, but fires this year increased by at least 75 percent while deforestation rates have increased by 278 percent in July as compared to last year. The record number of wildfires required military personnel and planes to combat the wildfires and sparked the movement of carbon monoxide across the planet. Images taken from space showed just how extensive the more than 39,000 individual fires across the rainforest had become – such smoke plumes are usually the result of deforestation-related burns.
Without tackling deforestation, the study authors say that the world will “continue to see the largest rainforest in the world being turned to ashes.”
“Brazil has for the past decade been an environmental leader, showing to the world that it can successfully reduce deforestation. It is both economically and environmentally unwise to revert this trend,” said researcher Erika Berenguer of Lancaster University and the University of Oxford.
Fires decreased in September by 35 percent yet it is not clear if this is due to rains or a government moratorium on burning. Furthermore, the extent of burns is not necessarily clear as the number of individual fires doesn’t always reflect how much land burns.