Wildfires killed 17 million animals in Brazil in 2020: Study


They estimate that as many as 17 million animals including reptiles, birds and primates lost not just their lives and biodiversity in these extreme events.

With climate change aggravating extreme events across the world, a new study shows that 17 million animals were killed in the devastating fires in Brazil alone. Scientists attempted to count the mortality figures among animals from the wildfires that ravaged the region in 2020.

Anthropogenic factors have significantly influenced the frequency, duration, and intensity of meteorological drought in many regions of the globe, and the increased frequency of wildfires is among the most visible consequences of human-induced climate change.

They estimate that as many as 17 million animals including reptiles, birds and primates lost not just their lives and biodiversity in these extreme events that were triggered by climate change. In a study published in Scientific Reports earlier this month, scientists said that despite the fire's role in determining biodiversity outcomes in different ecosystems, wildfires can cause negative impacts on wildlife.

They conducted ground surveys to estimate the first-order impact of the 2020 wildfires on vertebrates in the Pantanal wetland, Brazil. The study was conducted in area as big as 39,030 square kilometers, affected by the fires. "The Pantanal case also reminds us that the cumulative impact of widespread burning would be catastrophic, as fire recurrence may lead to the impoverishment of ecosystems and the disruption of their functioning," the paper said.

Aerial view of trucks queueing along the BR163 highway, in Moraes Almeida district, Itaituba, Para state, Brazil, in the Amazon rainforest. (Photo: AFP)

Researchers said that they have been witnessing an astonishing increase in intensity and frequency of wildfires, leading to a globally unprecedented amount of burnt area. However, the impacts of wildfire on wildlife are still poorly known. Apart from climate change they blame regional factors such as deforestation, incorrect ignition and use of fire, absence of or inadequate landscape management strategies, vegetation encroachment, increased need of fire as a management tool, and release of greenhouse gases which, in turn, contributes to climate change as key factor behind extreme wildfire seasons.

Fires burned 16,210 square kilometers of the Brazilian portion of the Pantanal in 2019, which went up to an astonishing 39,030 square kilometer in 2020. The fire was also due to decrease in amount of rainfall, higher temperatures, and higher frequency of extreme climate events.

Most Brazilian blazes are manmade, often started illegally by land-grabbers clearing forest for cattle or crops. Fires tend to begin increasing in June and peak in September, according to historical data. They can easily get out of control during the dry season, burning large swaths of forest to the ground.

Brazil is home to the world’s largest rainforest and tropical wetlands — the Amazon and Pantanal — which saw dramatic fires in 2019 and 2020, respectively, that caused the greatest annual forest loss since 2015. The fires drew global criticism of the response from the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro, who has repeatedly called for development of the region.

Source: https://www.indiatoday.in/science/story/amazon-rainforest-wildfires-brazil-17-million-animal-killed-climate-change-1894102-2021-12-30


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