We have all heard about the fires ravaging the Amazon, the world’s largest, most biodiverse forest. Left to their own devices, intact rainforests — where humidity can reach 88% and yearly rainfall can equal up to 400 inches — do not easily burn...
In 2022 forest fires were seen across much of the globe, from the US to Europe.
So, why so many fires? The answer is deforestation, the process by which workers first harvest valuable timber then burn the remaining vegetation to make way for crops like soy and oil palm plantations or for cattle grazing. August and September are the peak of fire season in the Brazilian Amazon, but deforestation affects forests across the tropics. In 2021, more than 27.4 million acres of tree cover were lost across the tropics, with nearly 9.3 million acres of that loss occurring in tropical primary rainforests that are especially important for biodiversity and carbon storage.
Fires do not occur naturally in the Amazon Rainforest.
Stopping deforestation through the creation of legal protected areas significantly reduces the risk of forest fires. Last year, Rainforest Trust, in partnership with Fundación Natura Bolivia and an alliance of Indigenous communities, protected over 2.2 million acres of eastern Bolivia’s Bajo Paraguá forest. Local residents were equipped and trained to fight fires at the edge of the deforestation frontier. As a result, there were 65% fewer fires detected in 2021 compared to 2020.
We need to work together to save land from deforestation.
In Madagascar, Rainforest Trust supported worked in partnership with Malagasy Institut pour la Conservation des Ecosystèmes Tropicaux (MICET) to create 13.6 miles of firebreaks around the proposed 3,460-acre Ivohiboro Protected Area. Working with MICET, 1,700 villagers dug wide strips of bare soil to prevent fires burning outside from impacting this forest. Intentionally started fires here are easily exacerbated during droughts. Despite drought conditions, burning was minimised by the firebreaks.
Establishing legal protection for forests is critical to limit the risk of fire by stopping illegal deforestation. Combined with fire-fighting tools and training that empowers local residents, forests are much more fire-safe.
For more than 34 years, Rainforest Trust has been safeguarding acres by supporting land purchases and government designations.
This straightforward solution works — 92% of areas protected with Rainforest Trust's support have lost less than 5% of their forest.