Amazon: Humans make rainforest more flammable

Human disturbances are making the Amazon rainforest more flammable, according to researchers. This is one of the conclusions of a two-year study of the Brazilian Amazon, which revealed that even protected forest is degraded by human activity. This activity includes selective logging and forest fragmentation, which increase the likelihood of wildfires.

While the Brazilian Amazon is protected from large-scale deforestation, this new study suggests that more effort is needed to safeguard what the scientists called the “hyper-diversity of tropical forests”.

This team set out to measure the effects that humans have on the rainforest – no easy feat in a dense landscape of 5.5 million sq km. They selected 400 plots, on a gradient of forest cover – ranging from pristine to deforested areas.

Selective logging can leave the forest fragmented or punch holes in the canopy, drying out the vegetation below. This, combined with the effects of climate change, is leaving the Amazon much more likely to catch fire.

Many bird species unique to the Amazon were suffering the most from these effects. These endemic species cannot survive in disturbed forests.

Rainforests don’t normally burn, but human activities are making them much more flammable.


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