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News articles on forest fires

Mongabay.com news articles on forest fires in blog format. Updated regularly.









Drought threatens the Amazon rainforest as a carbon sink

(03/05/2009) Drought in the Amazon is imperiling the rainforest ecosystem and global climate, reports new research published in Science. Analyzing the impact of the severe Amazon drought of 2005, a team of 68 researchers across 13 countries found evidence that rainfall-starved tropical forests lose massive amounts of carbon due to reduced plant growth and dying trees. The 2005 drought — triggered by warming in the tropical North Atlantic rather than el Niño — resulted in a net flux of 5 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere — more than the combined annual emissions of Japan and Europe — relative to normal years when the Amazon is a net sink for 2 billion tons of CO2.


New fire record for Borneo, Sumatra shows dramatic increase in rainforest destruction

(02/22/2009) Destruction of rainforests and peatlands is making Indonesia more susceptible to devastating forest fires, especially in dry el Niño years, report researchers writing in the journal Nature Geoscience. Constructing a record of fires dating back to 1960 for Sumatra and Kalimantan (on the island of Borneo) using airport visibility records to measure aerosols or "haze" prior to the availability of satellite data, Robert Field of the University of Toronto and colleagues found that the intensity and scale of fires has increased substantially in Indonesia since the early 1990s, coinciding with rapid expansion of oil palm plantations and industrial logging.


Amazon rainforest in big trouble, says UN

(02/19/2009) Economic development could doom the Amazon warns a comprehensive new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The report — titled GEO Amazonia [PDF-21.3MB] — is largely a synthesis of previously published research, drawing upon studies by more than 150 experts in the eight countries that share the Amazon.


Burning rainforests, melting tundra could accelerate global warming well beyond current projections

(02/16/2009) Projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) likely underestimate the scale and rapidity of climate change, warned a Stanford University scientist presenting Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Chicago.


Global warming may drive the Amazon rainforest toward seasonal forests rather than savanna

(02/11/2009) Changes in rainfall resulting from climate change may drive the parts of Amazon rainforest toward seasonal forests rather than savanna, argue researchers writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences


Drought and deforestation in southeast Asia linked to climate change

(12/09/2008) Researchers have linked drought and deforestation in southeast Asia to climate change. Analyzing six years of climate and fire data from satellites, Guido van der Werf and colleagues report that burning of rainforests and peatlands in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea released an average of 128 million tons of carbon (470 million tons of carbon dioxide - CO2) per year between 2000 and 2006. Fire emissions showed highly variability during the period, but were greatest in dry years, such as those that occur during El Niño events. Borneo was the largest source of fire emissions during the period, averaging 74 million tons per year, followed by Sumatra, which showed a doubling in emissions between 2000 and 2006.


Amazon deforestation rises slightly to 4,600 square miles in 2008

(11/28/2008) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon increased slightly for the August 2007-July 2008 period, reports the country's National Institute of Space Research (INPE). The rise is the first since 2004 when 27,379 square kilometers were destroyed.


Climate change will damage forests, creating hardship for rural communities

(11/28/2008) Climate change will transform forests that directly sustain nearly one billion people, warns a report to be released next week at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Poznán, Poland.


Climate change will cost California billions

(11/14/2008) $2.5 trillion of real estate assets in California are at risk from extreme weather events, sea level rise and wildfires expected to result from climate change over the course of a century, according to a new assessment from UC Berkeley researchers.


Haze risk returns as fires increase in Indonesia

(08/26/2008) The number of forest fires burning in Indonesia is increasing, raising concerns for the potential return of choking haze to the region.


Smoke from Amazon fires reduces local rainfall

(08/14/2008) Smoke released by fires set to clear the Amazon rainforest inhibit the formation of clouds, thereby reducing rainfall, report researchers writing in the journal Science. The study provides clues on how aerosols from human activity influence cloud cover and ultimately affect climate.


Geology, climate links make Guiana Shield region particularly sensitive to change

(06/14/2008) Soil and climate patterns in the Guiana Shield make the region particularly sensitive to environmental change, said a scientist speaking at a biology conference in Paramaribo, Suriname.


Land invasions undermine Amazon forest law

(04/03/2008) Land invasions are undermining a Brazilian law that requires ranchers to keep 80 percent of their land forested, according to reports from the Amazon state of Mato Grosso. A run up in land prices, driven by surging soy and cattle production in the region, combined with a lackadaisical response from law enforcement authorities are blamed for the incursions.


Fire monitoring by satellite becomes key conservation tool

(03/26/2008) Remote sensing is increasingly used as a tool for conservation management. Beyond traditional satellite imagery popularized by Google Earth, new sensing applications are allowing researchers located anywhere in the world to track fires, illegal logging and mining, and deforestation in some of Earth's most isolated regions using a computer or handheld device. The Fire Alert System is one example of an application that is harnessing the power of satellites to deliver key data to conservation managers. Developed by Madagascar's ministry of Environment, the International Resources Group, conservation International using data from the University of Maryland and NASA, the Fire Alert System enables near real-time monitoring of fires anywhere on the island of Madagascar, a hotspot of biological diversity. The system, which sends subscribers regular email alerts on newly-detected burning, will eventually be expanded to include all the world's protected areas, allowing managers to detect not only fires but potentially related activities like road building, logging, and even hunting.


Industry-driven road-building to fuel Amazon deforestation

(03/12/2008) Unofficial road-building will be a major driver of deforestation and land-use change in the Amazon rainforest, according to an analysis published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. Improved governance, as exemplified by the innovative MAP Initiative in the southwestern Amazon, could help reduce the future impact of roads, without diminishing economic prospects in the region.


Cellulosic energy may trigger dramatic collapse in the Amazon

(03/11/2008) Next generation biofuels may trigger the ecological collapse of the Amazon frontier and could have profoundly unexpected economic consequences for the region, warns a paper published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. Dr. Donald Sawyer writes that "interacting with climate change and land use, the upcoming stage of cellulosic energy could result in a collapse of the new frontier into vast degraded pasture." The shift could increase the incidence and severity of fires, reduce rainfall in key agricultural zones, exacerbate forest die-back and climate change, and worsen social instability. Sawyer says that while difficult to anticipate, the worst outcomes could likely be avoided be promoting "intensified and more sustainable use" of already cleared areas, minimizing new deforestation, and encouraging "sustainable use of natural resources by local communities."


Emissions from deforestation offset by increased tree growth in the Amazon

(03/10/2008) An increase in carbon sequestration by trees in the Amazon has roughly offset total emissions from deforestation in the region since the 1980s. A new study, published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, this trend may slow in the future, causing the world's largest rainforest to become a net source of carbon emissions and therefore contributing to climate change.


Human impacts on primate conservation in central Amazonia

(03/03/2008) Deforestation in the Amazon is a serious concern. In the Brazilian Amazon, forests are cleared for cattle ranches, soybean cultivation, and selective logging practices. A new plan to settle approximately 180 families north of Manaus, the capital city of the state of Amazonas, has created widespread controversy. The land plots would be located within the study site of the longest-running study of forest fragmentation, the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project (BDFFP). Therefore, the plan would threaten scientific research at the BDFFP and other nearby research sites operated by the Instituto Nacional da Pesquisas de Amazônia (INPA) and Large Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia (LBA), as well as the future of the Central Amazonian conservation Corridor.


Small fires a big threat to Amazon rainforest biodiversity

(02/27/2008) Small fires have a big impact in the Amazon rainforest, report researchers writing in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. The findings suggest a dire future for Earth's largest rainforest.


Half the Amazon rainforest will be lost within 20 years

(02/27/2008) More than half the Amazon rainforest will be damaged or destroyed within 20 years if deforestation, forest fires, and climate trends continue apace, warns a study published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. Reviewing recent trends in economic, ecological and climatic processes in Amazonia, Daniel Nepstad and colleagues forecast that 55 percent of Amazon forests will be "cleared, logged, damaged by drought, or burned" in the next 20 years. The damage will release 15-26 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere, adding to a feedback cycle that will worsen both warming and forest degradation in the region. While the projections are bleak, the authors are hopeful that emerging trends could reduce the likelihood of a near-term die-back. These include the growing concern in commodity markets on the environmental performance of ranchers and farmers; greater investment in fire control mechanisms among owners of fire-sensitive investments; emergence of a carbon market for forest-based offsets; and the establishment of protected areas in regions where development is fast-expanding.


Deforestation a greater threat to the Amazon than global warming

(02/25/2008) If past conditions are any indication of future conditions, the Amazon rainforest may survive considerable drying and warming caused by global warming, argue researchers in a paper published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.


Global warming - not el Nino - drove severe Amazon drought in 2005

(02/20/2008) One of the worst droughts on record in the Amazon was caused by high temperatures in the Atlantic rather than el Nino. The research, published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, suggests that human-driven warming is already affecting the climate of Earth's largest rainforest.


Ancient Amazon fires linked to human populations

(02/20/2008) Analysis of soil charcoal in South America confirms that from a historical perspective, fire is rare in the Amazon rainforest, but when it does occur, it appears linked to human activities. The research, published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, is based on dating of soil carbon, which provides a good indication of when fires occurred in Amazonia, according to lead author Mark Bush, head of the Department of Biology at Florida Institute of Technology.


Small Amazon farmers especially vulnerable to climate change

(02/19/2008) Communicating the impact of climate change to small farmers in the Amazon will be key in helping them adapt to higher temperatures, more frequent and intense drought, and greater incidence of forest fires forecast for the region, according to a paper published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.


Fire policy is key to reducing the impact of drought on the Amazon

(02/19/2008) Gaining control over the setting of fires for land-clearing in the Amazon is key to reducing deforestation and the impact of severe drought on the region's forests, write researchers in a paper published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.


How much would it cost to end Amazon deforestation?

(01/27/2008) With Brazil last week announcing a significant jump in Amazon deforestation during the second half of 2007, the question emerges, how much would it cost to end the destruction of Earth's largest rainforest?


7000 sq km of Amazon rainforest destroyed in late 2007 says Greenpeace

(01/25/2008) Brazilian government figures will likely show that more than 7,000 square kilometers of Amazon rainforest were destroyed between August and the end December 2007, said environmental group Greenpeace.


Amazon deforestation jumps in the second half of 2007

(01/24/2008) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon rose sharply in the second half of 2007 as a result of surging prices for beef and grain, said a top Brazilian environmental official.


Madagascar increases fines for forest burning

(01/03/2008) Madagascar will increase penalties for people caught setting land-clearing fires on the biodiverse island, according to a report from Deutsche Presse-Agentur.


U.S. corn subsidies drive Amazon destruction

(12/13/2007) U.S. corn subsidies for ethanol production are contributing to deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, reports a tropical forest scientist writing in this week's issue of the journal Science.


Beetle droppings help forests recover from fire

(12/04/2007) Armed with a pair of tweezers and a handful of beetle droppings, University of Alberta forestry graduate Tyler Cobb has discovered why the bug-sized dung is so important to areas ravaged by fire.


Could the carbon market save the Amazon rainforest?

(11/29/2007) The global carbon market could play a key role in saving the Amazon from the effects of climate change and economic development, which could otherwise trigger dramatic ecological changes, reports a new paper published in Science. The authors argue that a well-articulated plan, financed by carbon markets, could prevent the worst outcomes for the Amazon forest while generating economic benefits for the region's inhabitants.


Law enforcement key to saving Borneo's rainforests

(11/13/2007) In an interview with mongabay.com, Dr. Rhett Harrison, a Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) associate researcher and Secretary for the Asia-Pacific Chapter of ATBC, says that law enforcement could be the key to safeguarding biodiversity contained in Borneo's lowland parks. Harrison says there may be opportunities for conservationists to work with oil palm to developers to ensure that existing forests are not converted for plantations and that palm oil can be produced in a sustainable manner. He also adds that carbon offsets may eventually offer a means to fund conservation and sustainable development efforts in areas that still have standing forest.


Subtle threats could ruin the Amazon rainforest

(11/07/2007) While the mention of Amazon destruction usually conjures up images of vast stretches of felled and burned rainforest trees, cattle ranches, and vast soybean farms, some of the biggest threats to the Amazon rainforest are barely perceptible from above. Selective logging -- which opens up the forest canopy and allows winds and sunlight to dry leaf litter on the forest floor -- and 6-inch high "surface" fires are turning parts of the Amazon into a tinderbox, putting the world's largest rainforest at risk of ever-more severe forest fires. At the same time, market-driven hunting is impoverishing some areas of seed dispersers and predators, making it more difficult for forests to recover. Climate change -- an its forecast impacts on the Amazon basin -- further looms large over the horizon.


California fires release 8M tons of CO2

(11/01/2007) Southern California wildfires released 7.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in just the one-week period of October 19-26--the equivalent of about 25 percent of the average monthly emissions from all fossil fuel burning throughout California--according to researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the University of Colorado at Boulder.


Boreal forest fires important source of emissions

(10/31/2007) Forest fires in the boreal forests of Canada are an important source of greenhouse gas emissions reports a new study published in the journal Nature.


Despite fire risk, more Americans building near forests

(10/29/2007) While much of the world is seeing an urbanization trend, U.S. housing density around national forests is expected to rise by 2050, reports a study from the U.S. Forest Service. The shift could put more people at risk of devastating forest fires and increase pressure on forests and the services they provide.


Madagascar fires mapped with Google Earth in real-time

(10/29/2007) Every year as much as one-third of Madagascar, one of the planet's most biodiverse islands, goes up in flames. Now a new tool gives scientists the ability to monitor and track Madagascar's fires in real-time through the Internet.


2007 Amazon fires among worst ever

(10/22/2007) By some measures, forest fires in the Amazon are at near-record levels, according to analysis Brazilian satellite data by mongabay.com. A surge in soy and cattle prices may be contributing to an increase in deforestation since last year. Last year environmentalists and the Brazilian government heralded a sharp fall in deforestation rates, the third consecutive annual decline after a peak in 2004. Forest loss in the 2006-2007 season was the lowest since record-keeping began in the late in 1970s. While the government tried to claim credit for the drop, analysts at the time said that commodity prices were a more likely driver of slow down: both cattle and soy prices had declined significantly over the previous months.


Amazon rainforest burning "worst" in memory

(10/16/2007) Fires continue to rage in the Amazon, according to local reports. John Cain Carter, a rancher who runs Alianca da Terra, an environmental accountability group for agricultural operators, says that the fires are the worst he has ever seen in the region. "I have never seen fires this bad," he told mongabay.com. "The fires are even worse than in 1998's El Nino event." NASA satellite images released at the end of September confirm widespread burning in the Amazon state of Mato Grosso.


Fires rage in Amazon rainforest park

(10/04/2007) Forest fires are raging in Xingu National Park in the Amazon rainforest, according to a pioneering cattle rancher-turned-conservationist in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso.


Land-clearing fires send smoke across Argentina, Paraguay

(09/11/2007) Thousands of fires likely set for land-clearing are sending thick smoke over southern South America, reports NASA.


Australia puts $100M toward protecting forest in Borneo

(09/09/2007) Australian and Indonesian ministers signed a AU$100 million ($82M) deal to protect highly threatened forests on the island of Borneo, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Funds will go towards conservation and rehabilitation of degraded forests and peatlands.


"Virgin" rain forests of Costa Rica a misnomer

(07/25/2007) Radiocarbon dating of montane forest soils in Costa Rica uncovered evidence of charcoal that shows its otherwise "virgin" tropical forests are less than 200 years old. The findings, published in the journal Biotropica, have implications for the re-establishment of rain forests after clearing.


Poverty and corruption reduce effectiveness of rainforest parks

(07/09/2007) Poverty and corruption are linked to higher incidence of fire in tropical forest reserves, reports a new study published in the journal Ecological Applications. Poor, corrupt countries -- like Cambodia, Guatemala, Paraguay, and Sierra Leone -- have the least effective parks when measured in terms of the incidence of fire relative to surrounding "buffer" areas. The findings have significant implications for rainforest conservation efforts.


Indonesia pledges to cut haze-causing fires by half

(06/22/2007) Indonesia say it aims to reduce forest fires by 40-50 percent this year, following nearly a decade of devastating seasonal fires that release large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, threaten critical orangutan habitat, and raise regional health risks.


98% of orangutan habitat gone in next 15 years

(06/11/2007) Indonesia is losing more than 2.1 million hectares (5.2 million acres) of forest a year to illegal loggers, states a new report from the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP). The report, which estimates the value of illicit timbering at $4 billion annually, warns that 98 percent of Indonesia's lowland forests will be gone by 2022, putting species like the orangutan at risk of extinction in the wild. The report, Last stand of the Orang-utan: State of Emergency, was released Monday at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species meeting in The Hague.


Can cattle ranchers and soy farmers save the Amazon?

(06/06/2007) John Cain Carter, a Texas rancher who moved to the heart of the Amazon 11 years ago and founded what is perhaps the most innovative organization working in the Amazon, Alianca da Terra, believes the only way to save the Amazon is through the market. Carter says that by giving producers incentives to reduce their impact on the forest, the market can succeed where conservation efforts have failed. What is most remarkable about Alianca's system is that it has the potential to be applied to any commodity anywhere in the world. That means palm oil in Borneo could be certified just as easily as sugar cane in Brazil or sheep in New Zealand. By addressing the supply chain, tracing agricultural products back to the specific fields where they were produced, the system offers perhaps the best market-based solution to combating deforestation. Combining these approaches with large-scale land conservation and scientific research offers what may be the best hope for saving the Amazon.


Global warming will worsen fires in Australia

(05/31/2007) Global warming will put Australia at significantly higher risk of catastrophic bushfires said a leading climate scientists. Speaking at a climate conference in Sydney, Andy Pitman, co-director of the University of New South Wales's climate change research center, said that Australia will face a 100 to 200 percent increase in bushfire vulnerability by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions aren't curbed.


Will Amazon drought worsen in 2007?

(05/29/2007) Contrary to popular belief, the Amazon rainforest is not rainy year round. Further from the equator, rainfall is more seasonal, with dry periods that sometimes last for months.



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