New Brunswick, N.J. (Aug. 27, 2019) – With numerous fires raging in ecologically priceless Amazon rainforests, Rutgers University–New Brunswick Professor Laura C. Schneider can comment on current fire patterns (the number of fires and their location), linkages to tropical rain forest ecology and changes in Brazilian land use policies around deforestation.
“The current fires in the Amazon are of concern, but these events are not unusual. In the last 20 years, the Amazon has experienced more incidences during periods of drought, which typically begin in August,” said Schneider, an associate professor in the Department of Geography in the School of Arts and Sciences. “What is unusual this time is that the region is not experiencing drought yet.”
“Another important point to consider is that fires in the Amazonian rainforest rarely occur naturally and are usually anthropogenic in origin,” Schneider said. “Fire is commonly used by farmers and indigenous groups to clear land for cultivation. Those fires, however, rarely end up as wildfires. Indigenous groups know how to use and control fires for cultivation, as they have done for centuries. Finally, to understand the true extent of the damage to the forest, it is important to translate the number of fire incidences to the actual area burned. This data will take a little longer to obtain, and only on that basis can we compare the current fires with past fires.”
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