Jun 9 2013, 5:00am CDT | by Sumayah Aamir
NASA scientists have calculated that slow-burning fires in the rainforests have led to a major percentage of loss of lush vegetation. These fires slowly creep up on the plant material and engulf it in their flames. They have been doing their work since the past ten years or so. Not easy to detect or observe, these forest fires have claimed at least 3% of the luxuriant foliage in their destructive influence.
According to NASA
, the real reasons behind the fires are human acts of carelessness from the outdoor cooking of food to stray cigarettes to burning of waste products. Some of the fires literally reach the level of all out conflagrations that take in huge swathes of land along with plant life. Especially when humidity is low and the dryness is at a peak, fires break out and claim the organic greenery of the rainforest. In fact, during the times when deforestation was at an all-time high, fires were rather low in their frequency. Most of the fires spread inch by inch and feet by feet, that is very slowly. The flames are not that high either. But they keep on burning due to the heat and general desiccation.
NASA satellites have honed in on the areas in the Amazon where the fires wreak havoc. The results of these observations show that fires cause damage but the mess is cleared up by a re-growth of vegetation within a year or so. Meanwhile, deforestation has far more lasting detrimental effects. However, the fires caused a lot of carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere thereby raising alarms regarding air pollution and the greenhouse effect. Global warming is at an all-time high and there are already worries about the temperature rising by one degree centigrade in the next generation thereby making life on the planet very difficult in summers. The melting of the polar icecaps thanks to this climate change can cause floods in the lands directly next to the north and south poles.
It seems that these understory fires are a hidden source of much misery for the planet. While the rainforest has been known as being the “lungs of the planet” for its oxygen contribution to the climate, the fires cause the selfsame area to produce tons of carbon dioxide emissions too. This evens the score. Besides, most of these fires keep on burning at a steady tempo for a long time. The cause remains man-made though and so precaution remains the best prophylactic in this regards.
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