Wildfires deteriorating Brazil ecosystem

Firefighters are currently struggling to control wildfires in Brazil’s Pantanal, recognized as the largest tropical wetland on the planet. This unique ecosystem is a haven for diverse wildlife, including jaguars, giant anteaters, and giant river otters. Reports from local media indicate that the fires have already ravaged nearly 32,000 hectares in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul.

Climate experts have noted that this year’s wildfire season began earlier than usual and is more severe compared to previous years. Over the past weekend, firefighters’ efforts to contain the blazes were thwarted by strong winds. Additionally, the region has experienced significantly less rainfall than normal, which has exacerbated the spread of the fires.

Data from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) reveals a dramatic increase in the number of fires, with a 935% rise from the beginning of the year to June 9 compared to the same period last year. This surge is particularly alarming since the peak wildfire season typically starts in July. In April, the authorities in Mato Grosso do Sul declared an environmental state of emergency due to the low rainfall levels, which have created optimal conditions for wildfires.

The current number of fires in 2024 is the highest since 2020, a year when approximately 30% of the Pantanal was destroyed by fire, marking the worst year on record for this region. The comparison between this year and last year is striking: from January 1 to June 9, 2023, there were 127 reported fires, whereas this year, the number has skyrocketed to 1,315.

Vinicius Silgueiro from the local NGO Instituto Centro da Vida expressed his concern to media, emphasizing that the increase in fires during the rainy season is particularly troubling. He predicted that the situation is likely to worsen as the dry season reaches its peak in August and September.

In response, Brazil’s federal government recently announced a collaboration with the state governments of Mato Grosso do Sul and Amazonia to tackle the wildfires. Environment Minister Marina da Silva stressed the importance of a swift response to fires and the necessity of taking proactive measures to prevent them from starting.

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