Is fire nat­u­ral in the Ama­zon?

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - NEWS FEATURE -

Fires are a nat­u­ral part of some ecosys­tems, such as the sa­van­nahs of Africa. Not so the Ama­zon. “Trop­i­cal forests do not nat­u­rally burn,” says Alexan­der Lees, se­nior lec­turer in con­ser­va­tion bi­ol­ogy at Manch­ester Metropoli­tan Univer­sity. “The species that oc­cupy them have no evo­lu­tion­ary adap­ta­tions to­wards fire.” In fire-de­pen­dent ecosys­tems, trees have much thicker bark as a pro­tec­tion against fires, but this is not found in Ama­zo­nian trees, where half of the trees may per­ish. Lees ex­plains that “once these trees die and fall over, they open up the for­est canopy, caus­ing the un­der­storey to dry and be­come more fire-prone. This starts a vi­cious cy­cle of more fires and more degra­da­tion.” The Ama­zo­nian biome could take many, many years to re­cover

– if it ever does.

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