Invisible Fires Devastate the Amazon

Burn through 2.8 percent of the forest

Amazon rainforest

Amazon rainforest     Photo: Ivan Mlinaric/Flickr

NASA scientists have discovered that wildfires in the Amazon rainforest are the primary cause of deforestation in the region. Researchers have previously blamed agriculture for most of the deforestation as they were unable to track the fires, which burn below the forest canopy.

The study shows that understory forest fires burned around 2.8 percent of the forest between 1999 and 2010. The long, slow blazes creep below the canopy killing between 10 to 50 percent of trees, NASA announced. Scientists believe that a combination of climate conditions—like low humidity—and human activity are responsible for the blazes. Cooking, camping, cigarettes, and cars spark the blazes.

The new data may affect climate models using estimates of carbon emissions for disturbed forests.

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