The Amazon rainforest is burning unfortunately, at an unexpected rate. The fires are unlikely starting themselves, but they may be caused by people to help clear land for cattle ranching.
Cattle ranching is the reason for 80% of the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. The global beef supply, including the UK’s corned beef supply is originally from an Amazon rainforest land that has been deforested.
“The fire that we’re seeing today is a fire that’s directly related to deforestation,” Ane Alencar, the scientific director of Brazilian NGO IPAM (Institute of Environmental Research in Amazonia), told forest news website Mongabay.
These are not wildfires, she said, but rather fires set by people seeking to create cattle ranches, intentionally ignited during the dry season each year. “They cut the trees, leave the wood to dry and later put fire to it, so that the ashes can fertilize the soil.”
When the rainy season returns, grass for cattle briefly flourishes, thanks to the nutrients left by the ashes, Mongabay reports.
Research has shown that indigenous management practices are the best approach to maintaining the health of tropical rainforests globally. Satellite imagery from the Amazon confirms that research; between the 1980s and 2018, deforestation crept all the way up to and against the exact contours of the Xingu Indigenous Park in Brazil, for example.
Tropical rainforests are critical storage sites for carbon dioxide, keeping the greenhouse gas in its solid carbon state, locked away in soils and trees. The Amazon is the world’s largest tropical rainforest, making its protection critical to preventing runaway climate change.