published on 28 August 2019 in ecosystems
Forest fires, Africa and the Amazon are the hardest hit areas
The record fires that are burning the Amazon rainforest have captured the attention of the international media and leaders, yet in Africa – more specifically in Angola and Congo – over the past few days the number of fires has been considerably higher than those reported in the Earth’s “green lungs”. A full picture of the fires in 2019 has been given by FIRMS, NASA’s global Fire Information for Resource Management System. This platform offers a real time “fire map” and shows an unequivocal fact: the situation in Central and Southern Africa is probably more serious than that recorded in Brazil. The dramatic situation in Africa was noted by ordinary users interested in the events in the Amazon and the maps to check the fires in almost real time. Over the past few days, almost 7 thousand fires have been recorded in Angola, 3,395 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and 2,217 in Brazil. Those in Brazil are not the only rainforest fires because the Amazon jungle also extends into Bolivia, Paraguay, Venezuela, Suriname, Guyana and other South American countries.
Looking at the map, it can be seen that not only the forests in Africa and South America are burning; indeed, it should be remembered, for example, that in July vast areas of the Arctic were on fire. The causes of these fires are very different: those in the Arctic regions can be attributed to exceptionally high summer temperatures, while those in Africa and South America are prevalently started by humans in order to free up land for crops and for rearing animals. In fact, the ash that settles after fires makes the land fertile and favours crop growth. However, this “process” (legal or illegal depending on the circumstances) determines faster soil erosion, making it more rapidly unusable, as well as causing considerable emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants into the atmosphere.