Cerrado region records 60000 fires in five months

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 23 October 2010

Brazil’s crucial Cerrado region leads the tally of areas most damaged by a crippling drought in the country, with nearly 60,000 fire outbreaks recorded in the five months to September.

Cerrado. Photo by: Angelika Hofer

The fires, which have increased 350% over the same period in 2009, have devastated large areas of some Cerrado national parks, threaten to cause large scale changes to vegetation cover and are being reflected in a marked rise in respiratory complaints in the human population.

Most fires are attributed to human causes, with many being set illegally – an ever-present factor currently accelerated due to a legislative challenge to Brazil’s Forest Code.

“The explosive increase in the number of fires can be attributed to both climate conditions and deliberate burning by human beings to make way for farmland,” says Mercedes Bustamante, a research professor at the University of Brasilia.

“While this translates into greater CO2 emissions coming from the Cerrado, it’s also reducing the soil’s ability to hold water. In the dry season, this means more droughts, and in the rainy season, more floods. The situation could become even worse if some of the proposed Forest Code reforms are passed.”

Currently, Brazilian law allows the clearing of 80% of forest farms in the Cerrado. Continue reading