By L. Mizne
The Pantanal is the world’s largest tropical wetland, and for the past months, it has been in flames. From July through October of 2019 (the typical fire season), the amount of fires was already unusually high, and now, they have almost tripled. So far this year, there have already been 3682 fires, which is 3455 more than there were in the same period in 2018. This is because during what would have been the wet season of 2019/20, there was almost no rain, which prevented the Pantanal from having any recovery time.
Every year, the amount and size of these fires have been increasing rapidly, with 71 fire hotspots being registered in August of 2018, to 184 in the same month of 2019 and finally, a sudden increase to 4200 hotspots in August of 2020. Some of these fires have reached 25 meters in height, and as of September 9th, they have officially burned 24,000 km2 of land. This area adds up to more than 10% of the Pantanal already being affected by the fires, while we are still a few months away from the wet season. Douglas Morton--the Chief of the Biospheric sciences branch at NASA--has expressed his concerns by stating that “what is happening this year is extreme and unprecedented in the satellite era”.
These unusual conditions have posed as an opportunity for some to deliberately start fires in order to illegally deforest land that will then be used as pastures for cattle ranching. Additionally, people in the area may have fuelled the fire by burning trash or lighting campfires. Firemen have been working day and night in an attempt to stop the fire, but in many cases, they have been ill equipped to do so, considering they have not experienced fires this big in many years.
Besides that, thousands of species are being threatened by these fires, including endangered ones such as macaws, giant armadillos and jaguars. Various animals have been dying both of thirst and of hunger every day, to such an extent where an emergency care centre has had to be set up to take care of these animals. There have been other volunteers on patrols in the rivers in an attempt to nurse injured jaguars back to health.
Last year, these fires burned a total of 500 km2 and at the moment, it seems that rain will be one of the only ways to end this climate crisis.