On 2021 alone over 184 thousand wildfires broke out in Brazil. This scenario is both shocking and frightening. 

Brazilian wildfires are inferred to spread quickly over time and have affected Brazil very massively; they occur in the forest, grassland, or the prairie. 

Brazil harbors the largest rainforest all across the world and the tropical wetlands. Wildfires in these regions could undoubtedly impact not only the living creatures exiting in the environment’ instead hamper the entire landscape of nature. 

Factors influencing the Brazilian wildfires

Brazilian Wildfire
Brazilian Wildfire | Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons

Multiple factors influence the Brazilian wildfires. It entails land-use alteration and climatic conditions, such as wind and temperature. 

Land use and management, religious cultures and traditions, and recreation practices are drivers of the wildfires in the forest or the grasslands.

Occurrence and events of the Brazilian wildfires

The wildfires of the Brazilian rainforest are not surprising to yell. Over the years, the country has been suffering hugely from massive wildfires. 

  • In Brasilia of Brazil, roughly 14,064 hectares of woodlands were burnt. 
  • The fires have massively impacted around 20 conservation units in Minas Gervais of Brazil. It has hampered the hydroelectric dams in the southeast and the midwest areas and the several water resources.
  • The dramatic wildfires in 2019 and 2020 in the Amazon rainforest and the Pantanal have resulted in heavy forest loss since 2015. The wildfires even targeted the center-west region of Brazil that influenced the forest cover.
  • From 2011 to 2020, around 222,798 fire cases have been recorded so far, recording 2020 as the highest rate of forest fires.
  • Two thousand twenty data on Brazilian wildfires stressed that about 33 % of the Amazon wildfire caused in 2019 was linked to the intentional fire in the private lands, with 18 % in the rural residents. 
  • Due to extensive wildfires, the forest has been converted into cow pastures in the southern part of the Brazilian Amazon near Labrea. The satellite image detected 28 060 fires in the Amazon forest of Brazil in August 2021.
  • Two hundred sixty-seven wildfires have been seen in the Brazilian Amazon, whose size was predicted roughly as of Los Angeles, California, contributing over 75 % of the forest fires.

Research targeting the Brazilian wildfires

Aftermath of Brazilian wildfire
Aftermath of Brazilian wildfire | Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons

The forest fires had targeted the freshly felled trees in the forest. Compared to June 2020, the forest loss by the wildfires has increased by 2 % in the year 2021.

With the sharp rise in climate change and deforestation, long term intensifying drought has been triggered by extreme El Nino.

The research predicted that the situation of the Brazilian wildfire would have gone worse if there had been another drought being added. 

The Brazilian rainforest has been drier in recent years. There is concern that if the drought continues in the North Atlantic due to warming, it could more troublingly assist in the forest fire occurrence in the Brazilian Pantanal. 

23 % of the wetlands harboring dense Jaguars population throughout the world have been burned according to a Federal University study in Rio de Janeiro.

Causes of the Brazilian wildfires

The great cause behind the wildfires in Brazil is the climate change resulting from anthropogenic-induced interventions. 

The ongoing clearing of the Amazon rainforest for several reasons, such as agricultural purposes, has influenced the forest. 

1. Deforestation

Brazil's pro-deforestation policies
Brazil’s pro-deforestation policies | Image Credit – Green Queen

More troublingly, due to deforestation at a massive scale, countless forest fires have been occurring in the country. 

Due to the climate change crisis, Brazil’s average precipitation seems very low. The lack of rain induces low humidity, and in turn, there is an occurrence of drought conditions. 

Once the drought exists for a prolonged period, there are higher chances of wildfire. 

The long-term drought in several signs has been inferred as one of the causes of the wildfires in the Brazilian forest. 

Illegal logging has contributed to deforestation, which results in massive wildfires.

2. Agriculture

Forest is cleared for larger agriculture patch
Forest is cleared for larger agriculture patch | Image Credit – Flickr

In Brazil, the forest clearing by the land-grabbers for the crops is widespread. They carry it illegally and burn large forest patches to achieve the best agricultural yield. 

Moving the cold front leads to vegetation drying and results in the warm temperature in the forest.

The European colonization of Brazil has boosted forest land clearing on a large scale. The humans heavily burned the Atlantic forest of Brazil approached forest clearing once basically for agricultural purposes. 

The slash and burn cultivation for agriculture has caused a vast forest fire in Brazil. 

The carbon has been emitted more than the expected one. Since heat and drought are positively correlated upon increasing the heat, it could result in wildfires.

Impacts posed by the Brazilian wildfires

The wildfires in most areas of Brazil have affected multiple sectors entailing biodiversity.

1. Burning Pantanal wetland

Burning Pantanal wetland
Burning Pantanal wetland | Image Credit – CGTN

Since it harbors thousands of endangered wildlife, wildfires may distract and fragment their natural habitat, which they have enjoyed for a long time. 

If the wildfires continue in this wetland once again, it could wipe away the lush vegetation and diminish the wetlands’ pristine beauty.

Over 4 million hectares of Brazil’s largest wetland, the Pantanal, got burnt, thereby covering approximately 27 % of the area. It has impacted the wildlife habitat entailing jaguars, otters, and the caimans.

2. Coffee farms production

Coffee farms production
Coffee farms production | Image Credit – Pixabay

Considering the agricultural industry, it has affected the coffee farms as well. This year alone, Brazilian wildfires have impacted roughly 1.3 billion pounds of beans.

Mainly in the dry season of Pantanal and Cerrado, the wildfires caused by the lightning strike do not spread massively since the precipitation extinguishes the fire. 

The crown fires do devastate more as they impact the coffee farms. Additionally, some species are not fire-adapting. 

The fire-sensitive Brazilian forests could frequently damage the woods within a minute and severely hamper coffee production.

3. Darkening of Sao Paulo

Darkening of Sao Paulo
Darkening of Sao Paulo | Image Credit – The Brazilian Report

On August 19th, 2019, the Amazon forest fires darkened the city of Sao Paulo. The fire foci concentration reached  46.3 % at Amazon and 28.5% by Cerrado

The fires have impacted biodiversity somewhat, hampered and severely devastated ecosystem services and their natural functions.

The extreme forest fire darkening the region in Brazil could adversely hamper the reptiles, amphibians, and the smaller invertebrates. 

4. Plant dispersion

Plant dispersion
Plant dispersion | Image Credit – Pixabay

Forest wildlife have a significant contribution to the dispersion of the plant propagules. Once the wildfires target them, it could undoubtedly impact the healthy populations.

It has detrimental effects on the species composition, speciation, and vegetation structure over time. 

For instance: the burning of the litter layer by the massive wildfires halts the soil protection from erosion. It can have a direct effect on the plant dispersion process.

The wildfires of Veredas are so intensive that they could completely burn the highest crown of the palms in the Brazil forest. In turn, it possesses critical disturbance in the natural forest regeneration process.

5. Alteration in the nutrient cycling

Forest fire could lead to an alteration in nutrient cycling, thereby killing several seedlings and the saplings. 

The primates, and insectivorous birds will be significantly disturbed and affected upon changing patterns in the natural nutrient cycling. 

Once there is a rapid alteration in the nutrient cycling, it leads to the deterioration in the natural food chain and the food web cycle.

The trees’ roots become very poor, and alteration in the forest structure and the function negatively influences the fruit production and nesting of the birds. 

6. Emission of greenhouse gasses

Emission of greenhouse gasses
Emission of greenhouse gasses | Image Credit – Flickr

In Caatinga, a recurrent forest fire is on the way to degrade the natural ecosystems and cause desertification.

The drought-induced Brazilian wildfires contribute to the significant emission of carbon dioxide and its associates. 

It could result in the high emission of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. It may be one of the enormous challenges in tackling the issues concerning climate change.

7. Wildlife activities

Fires ravaging world’s largest wetland and large parts of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil | Video Credit – South China Morning Post

The reproduction and behavior pattern of the wilderness might be impacted by the frequent reoccurrence of the forest fires. 

There might be an alteration in the wildlife richness and evenness. The genetic constituents of the organisms may change with the drastic effects resulting from the Amazon and the Atlantic forest fires at an unprecedented rate. 

Wrapping up

Wildfires have been a critical issue and challenging part of tackling the climatic crisis over the years. 

It’s worrisome to insist the Brazilian Amazon rainforest has been chopped due to the drought-induced wildfires.

The solution to the forest chopping at a tremendous rate is not as easy as you think. It can take years for the fallen trees and the species to fully recover. 

Every fragmented forest patch needs to stand up. If we conserve our forest from wildfires for the long term, undoubtedly, we will be able to gain success in promoting our forest and making it known to the world.

(Last Updated on June 9, 2022 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Kalpana Ghimire holds a post-graduate degree in Environmental Science from Nepal. She possesses numerous research experiences working in water pollution, community forestry, environment conservation status, and wildlife ecology. She was an internee in the Department of Environment (EIA monitoring and auditing section) under the Government of Nepal. Kalpana Ghimire is an avid traveler, an enthusiastic wildlife researcher, and has a huge passion for working in the environment sector. She loves far traveling to the natural areas, conducting field wildlife research and reading the novels.