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'Hidden' fires burning in Amazon rainforest

Posted on Friday, 14 June, 2013 | Comment icon 15 comments | News tip by: Still Waters

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Wildfires beneath the jungle canopy are proving more destructive than human deforestation.

Previously undetectable below the trees, the extent of the fires has only now been revealed thanks to a new satellite imaging technique. Unlike fires that sweep across the Amazon's grassy areas, the 'understory' wildfires can burn undetected and cause massive damage. Between 1999 and 2010 it is believed that 33,000 square miles of forest was burned in this way, an area larger that the State of South Carolina.

"Amazon forests are quite vulnerable to fire, given the frequency of ignitions for deforestation and land management at the forest frontier, but we've never known the regional extent or frequency of these understory fires," said researcher Doug Morton.

"A new satellite imaging technique has allowed scientists to see Amazonian fires burning beneath the jungle canopy, called "understory fires," which were previously difficult to detect."

  View: Full article |  Source: Live Science

  Discuss: View comments (15)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #6 Posted by Sundew on 14 June, 2013, 17:06
While it's always fashionable to blame man for things like this, and it could be from human activity like nearby slash and burn agriculture, it may also be a natural phenomenon. In the southeastern U.S., wildfires frequently start at the beginning of the wet season, usually in May or early June, when conditions create thunderstorms with cloud to ground lightning and little to no rainfall. This coincides with the end of the dry season where there can be a considerable amount of dry combustable material. True the Amazon is not the S.E. U.S., but it is known for ferocious electrical storms an... [More]
Comment icon #7 Posted by Br Cornelius on 14 June, 2013, 17:33
If its increasing then it is likely a consequence of extended and deeper dry periods caused by climate change. I watch these stories with interest as part of a bigger jigsaw of facts consequent to climate change. The skill in thinking is to discern patterns and fit them to the available data. Br Cornelius
Comment icon #8 Posted by Doug1o29 on 14 June, 2013, 17:38
Fire functions as a part of many ecologies, especially here in the US where fires set by native Americans have been happening for thousands of years. The US began fire control efforts in the 1890s because settler's homesteads were getting burned up. 1200 people died in the Peshitgo Fire (1871); 400 at Cloquet; unknown hundreds in the Great Idaho fire (three million acres; 1910), Silvertip Fire, Tillamook Fire, Miramichi Fire, and thousands of others. It was to put an end to this death and destruction that we quit letting them happen. That, of course, changed the nature of our forests - a... [More]
Comment icon #9 Posted by pallidin on 14 June, 2013, 17:45
With deforestation leaving behind unwanted wood that dries, it doesn't surprise me that this is a fuel for accidental human-caused fires, or nature-caused fires(lightning strikes)
Comment icon #10 Posted by Doug1o29 on 14 June, 2013, 17:51
In the tropics wood rots out very fast. Very little accumulates. Most of tropical soil fertility is locked up in plants. The soils are so nutrient-starved that plants orient their roots upward to reach decaying vegetation for its nutrients. Most fuel accumulation is very seasonal. A wet spring produces a lot of vegetation that then dries out during the summer, producing huge fires in the fall. Dead matter reaches its maximum after about six years in most areas. The rest of the fuel load is in the form of living plants, including trees. Doug
Comment icon #11 Posted by jesspy on 16 June, 2013, 12:58
There was a show on the other day called " toughest place to be a fire fighter" He went to the amazon where there are heaps of fires lit by people clearing land for grazing. They are little spot fires mostly but in the dry season they get bigger. Also lightening is also a trigger. Fire is also used to scare people off their land too.
Comment icon #12 Posted by Doug1o29 on 17 June, 2013, 15:37
We used to have a lot of trouble with arson fires in the Appalachians (still do). Moonshiners would try to burn out the competition. Capitalism at its finest. Doug
Comment icon #13 Posted by The New Richard Nixon on 17 June, 2013, 21:47
what about volcanic activity? isnt there a town in the US where it is abandoned and the area is always on fire or burning? Silent Hill is based on it
Comment icon #14 Posted by Doug1o29 on 18 June, 2013, 13:02
There are some burning coal seams that have been going for a hundred plus years. One on the Theodore Roosevelt National Forest appears to have been natural; there's an area of several thousand acres covered with coal clinkers. Doug

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