Fires in Amazonia have made headlines around the world, but there’s more to the story. Analysis by Conservation International is revealing where the fires are and why that matters.
* Thermal anomalies detected by NASA MODIS Aqua and MODIS Terra satellites with greater than or equal to 30% confidence in the most recent 48 hours (red) and 7 days (yellow). Click to expand legend icon in the upper left corner to view protected areas and indigenous lands, or land cover. Click here for land governance data sources.
There's more to the story
Fires in Amazonia occur year-round but peak in late austral winter
“Fire season” in Amazonia begins in July when farmers in the region typically clear their land with fire to grow crops. Fire is also the main tool for clearing tropical forests. During the dry season, agricultural fires can burn out of control, resulting in deforestation and forest degradation.
Some years are worse than others
Why fire on the forest edge matters
Fire density2 varies by land tenure
In Brazil, deforestation outside protected and indigenous lands in the Legal Amazon3 has increased in recent years
Both soy and beef are produced in high-fire regions of Brazil — and driven by global and domestic demand
Brazil leads the world in soy production and is the world’s largest beef exporter. Using Trase data, we can track the beef and soy supply chains of importing nations and companies to determine recent purchase patterns within the 50 Amazonia municipalities with the highest rate of fires.4 China (mainland), the European Union, and Brazil are the main purchasers of soy from high fire municipalities. China (Hong Kong), Egypt and Russia are the main international purchasers of beef from high fire municipalities, with the majority of beef consumed domestically.
A tipping point
Protected areas and indigenous lands can help us save this vital ecosystem. Up to 15% of the Amazon has already been lost, and researchers suggest that if this reaches 25% to 30%, the entire biome will be permanently altered, with global ramifications for our climate.
Where there's smoke, there's Firecast
Developed in part by Conservation International, Firecast is an online platform that uses satellite observations to track ecosystem disturbances such as fires, fire risk conditions, deforestation and delivers this time-sensitive information to decision-makers through email alerts, maps and reports.
- The Amazon forest-agriculture frontier represents an approximately 1 km buffer that straddles the boundary of large contiguous forests and agricultural lands. This is a critical zone where tropical forests are dying back due to degradation and drying-out. It is also an area that contains an incredibly high concentration of fires.
- Due to uncertainties of the exact locations of the satellite-detected fires, we use a 1-km buffer to confidently separate fires inside protected areas and IP areas from fires that that occur within 50 meters of the boundary edge, either inside or outside. We refer to this edge zone as the “Protected Area and IPLC accuracy buffer.” Read an explanation of fire detection accuracies.
- Brazil's Legal Amazon (or Amazônia Legal) is the largest socio-geographic division in Brazil, containing all nine states in the Amazon basin. It is an official designation covering 59% of Brazil but only 12.34% of the Brazilian population lives there. Although called Amazônia Legal, the region overlaps three different biomes: all of Brazil's Amazon biome, 37% of the Cerrado biome and 40% of the Pantanal biome.
- Brazilian soy and beef volumes Trase dataset from 2017 compared to 2019 fires.