amazon-forest-fires

In news: Amazon rainforest had been burning at a rate that alarmed environmentalists and governments worldwide. 

Amazon Forest Ecology

The majority of the forest is contained within Brazil, with 60% of the rainforest, followed by Peru with 13%, Colombia with 10%, and with minor amounts in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.

  • Forest type: Evergreen forests stratified with 3-4 layers of vegetation under-story, sub-canopy, canopy, and occasionally the emergent layer. Amazon rainforest trees support hundreds of species of vines and epiphytes such as orchids, bromeliads, and mosses.
    • Emerging trees reach up to 50-60 meters high, above the canopy of the forest. The canopy layer averages 25-30 meters in height and forms a mass of continuous tree coverage
    • The sub-canopy is often dominated by palms, and contains trees that wait for light openings to reach into the canopy. 
    • The understory layer contains small trees and shrubs often with morphological adaptations to survive in low light and chemical adaptations to protect against predators.   
  • Shallow and/or buttressed roots are common due to the fact that the majority of nutrients are found near the soil surface; buttresses also help with stability in wet soils. 
  • More than plants, the canopy provides the structure for birds and arboreal animals such as sloths and monkeys. 

Reason:

  • Forest fires are common in the Amazon during the dry season, which runs from July to October. 
  • They can be caused by naturally occurring events, such as by lightning strikes, but also by farmers and loggers clearing land for crops or grazing.
  • However, activists also blame Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, who has encouraged such tree-clearing activities for agriculture and mining.

Location of forests: The fires started in the Amazonian rainforests and have impacted populated areas in the north such as Rondônia, blocking sunlight and enveloping the region in smoke.The smoke has wafted thousands of miles to the Atlantic coast and São Paulo, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).