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Tech & Science What the Amazon fires mean for wild animals

15:25  24 august  2019
15:25  24 august  2019 Source:   nationalgeographic.com

Striking photos show the devastation wreaked by record-breaking fires in the Amazon rainforest

Striking photos show the devastation wreaked by record-breaking fires in the Amazon rainforest The Amazon rainforest is burning at a record rate: The Brazilian Amazon has experienced more than 74,000 fires this year, whereas last year's total was around 40,000. This year so far, scientists have recorded more than 74,000 fires in Brazil - nearly double 2018's total of about 40,000 fires. The surge marks an 83 percent increase in wildfires over the same period of 2018, Brazil's National Institute for Space Research reported. As the world's largest rainforest, the Amazon plays a crucial role in keeping our planet's carbon-dioxide levels in check.

Rainforests are home to over half of the world's plant and animal species. Learn about how these biodiverse ecosystems contribute to the health of the planet.

What the Amazon fires mean for wild animals https://on.natgeo.com/2P9aEqZ via @NatGeo.

What the Amazon fires mean for wild animals© Photograph by Claus Meyer, Minden Pictures/Nat Geo Image Collection

Crimson-bellied parakeets are one of 1,500 bird species found in the Amazon rainforest. As fires rage at an unprecedented scale, the implications for wildlife could be severe.

The Amazon rainforest—home to one in 10 species on Earth—is on fire. As of last week, 9,000 wildfires were raging simultaneously across the vast rainforest of Brazil and spreading into Bolivia, Paraguay, and Peru. The blazes, largely set intentionally to clear land for cattle ranching, farming, and logging, have been exacerbated by the dry season. They’re now burning in massive numbers, an 80 percent increase over this time last year, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE). The fires can even be seen from space.

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What the Amazon fires mean for wild animals | By Natasha Daly for @NatGeo https://on.natgeo.com/2P9aEqZ @natashaldaly.

What the Amazon fires mean for wild animalshttps://on.natgeo.com/2NtvWNy.

What the Amazon fires mean for wild animals© Photograph by Claus Meyer, Minden Pictures/Nat Geo Image Collection

A tassel-eared marmoset is pictured in healthy Brazilian forest. Some species of recently discovered monkeys live in very small ranges currently under threat by fire, raising concerns for their populations.

For the thousands of mammal, reptile, amphibian, and bird species that live in the Amazon, the wildfires’ impact will come in two phases: one immediate, one long-term.

What the Amazon fires mean for wild animals© Photograph by NASA Earth Observatory, Lauren Dauphin, using MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS/LANCE and G...

Smoke from Amazon wildfires was captured in this satellite image taken by NASA.

“In the Amazon, nothing is adapted to fire,” says William Magnusson, a researcher specializing in biodiversity monitoring at the National Institute of Amazonian Research (INPA) in Manaus, Brazil.

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The Amazon Rainforest is home to over 2,000 species of animals . Some are found in the trees like the Gold Lion Tamarin, while others are found in the amazon rainforest river like the dolphin.

The Amazon rainforest is inhabited by rare and unique lifeforms, including some of the world's most dangerous creatures.

In some forests, including many across the U.S., wildfires are essential for maintaining healthy ecosystems. Animals are adapted to cope with it; many even rely on it to thrive. The black-bellied woodpecker, for example, native to the American West, only nests in burnt-out trees and eats the beetles that infest burned wood.

But the Amazon is different.

The rainforest is so uniquely rich and diverse precisely because it doesn’t really burn, says Magnusson. While fires do sometimes happen naturally, they’re typically small in scale and burn low to the ground. And they’re quickly put out by rain.

“Basically, the Amazon hadn’t burnt in hundreds of thousands or millions of years,” says Magnusson. It’s not like in Australia, for instance, where eucalyptus would die out without regular fires, he says. The rainforest is not built for fire.

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The Amazon is an incredibly unique place. It is the world’s largest rain forest and river system, and The Amazon also pumps about 7 trillion tons of water per year into the atmosphere, and its forests recycle Long dry spells wither crops, decimate fisheries and lead to forest fires . This can result in

The Amazon rainforest is the largest rainforest in the world, occupying an area shared by nine countries — Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. All of these animals are fascinating in their own ways, well-adapted to life in the rainforest

How are the fires affecting individual animals right now?

It’s likely they’re taking a “massive toll on wildlife in the short term,” says Mazeika Sullivan, associate professor at Ohio State University’s School of Environment and Natural Resources, who has done fieldwork in the Colombian Amazon.

Generally, in the midst of wildfire, Sullivan says, animals have very few choices. They can try to hide by burrowing or going into water, he says. They can be displaced. Or they can perish. In this situation, a lot of animals will die, from flames, heat from the flames, or smoke inhalation, Sullivan says

“You’ll have immediate winners and immediate losers,” says Sullivan. “In a system that isn’t adapted to fire, you’ll have a lot more losers than you will in other landscapes.”

Are some animals likely to do better than others?

Certain traits may be beneficial in the midst of wildfire. Being naturally mobile helps. Large, fast-moving animals like jaguars and pumas, Sullivan says, may be able to escape, as may some birds. But slow-moving animals like sloths and anteaters, as well as smaller creatures like frogs and lizards, may die, unable to move out of the fire’s path quickly enough. “Escape into the canopy but choose the wrong tree,” Sullivan says, and an animal is likely to die.

Brazil rejects G7 $20mn aid for Amazon, blasts ‘imperialist’ Macron

Brazil rejects G7 $20mn aid for Amazon, blasts ‘imperialist’ Macron Brazil on Monday rejected aid from G7 countries to fight wildfires in the Amazon, with a top official telling French President Emmanuel Macron to take care of "his home and his colonies." 

Before the fires , land conversion and deforestation made the Amazon release up to 0.5 billion metric tons of carbon per year, according to the WWF. Depending on the damage from these fires , that release would increase, accelerating climate change even further. The Amazon helps regulate the

The wild , the world of animals where only the strongest survives according to the law of the jungle! A survival online action game that risks the lives of numerous animals . How Wild Animals online game is played Step 1: You choose one from the 20 different animals Step 2: Boost your character to the

Could some already-vulnerable species become more threatened or even extinct?

It’s tough to say. Wildfire in the Amazon is completely different than in the U.S., Europe, or Australia, where we know a lot about species distributions, says Magnusson. We don’t know enough about the range of most of the animals in the rainforest to pinpoint which species are under threat.

Nevertheless, there are a few specific species of concern.

Milton’s titi, a monkey discovered in 2011, has only ever been documented in a part of Brazil in the southern Amazon that’s currently beset by fire. Another recently discovered monkey, the Mura’s saddleback tamarin, lives in a small range in central Brazil—also threatened by encroaching wildfire, says Carlos César Durigan, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society of Brazil. It’s possible these species are native to these specific regions, Durigan says. “I [fear] we may be losing many of these endemic species.”

What about aquatic animals?

Large bodies of water are mostly safe in the short term. But animals in small rivers or creeks—which are highly biologically diverse—could be in trouble. In smaller streams, “fires burn right over,” says Sullivan. Water-dwelling amphibians, which need to stay partially above water in order to breathe, would be in harm’s way. Fire could also change water chemistry to the point that it isn’t sustainable for life in the short term, Sullivan says.

The Amazon Cannot Be Recovered Once It’s Gone

The Amazon Cannot Be Recovered Once It’s Gone The fires blazing in Brazil are part of a larger deforestation crisis, accelerated by President Jair Bolsonaro.

Indeed, while wild encounters are certainly dangerous, the risk of death from a puffer fish increases when eating it in countries like Japan, where it is considered a delicacy known as fugu and can only be prepared by trained, licensed chefs—even then

All the animals in the Amazon river are wild , I do not think the river itself is being used to farm domestic animals . If an animal is extinct, that means that there are no more living members of that animal species on the planet Earth.

How might the fires’ aftermath affect species?

This is the second major blow. “Longer-term effects are likely to be more catastrophic,” says Sullivan. The entire ecosystem of the burning sections of rainforest will be altered. For example, the dense canopy of the Amazon rainforest largely blocks sunlight from reaching the ground. Fire opens up the canopy at a stroke, bringing in light and fundamentally changing the energy flow of the entire ecosystem. This can have cascading effects on the entire food chain, Sullivan says.

Surviving in a fundamentally transformed ecosystem would be a struggle for many species. Lots of amphibians, for instance, have textured, camouflaged skin that resembles the bark or leaves of a tree, allowing them to blend in. “Now, all of a sudden, the frogs are forced to be on a different background,” says Sullivan. “They become exposed.”

And many animals in the Amazon are specialists—species have evolved and adapted to thrive in niche habitats. Toucans, for instance, eat fruits that other animals can’t access—their long beaks help them reach into otherwise inaccessible crevices. Wildfire decimating the fruit the birds depend upon would likely plunge the local toucan population into crisis. Spider monkeys live high in the canopy to avoid competition below. “What happens when you lose the canopy?” Sullivan asks. “They’re forced into other areas with more competition.”

The only “winners” in burned forest are likely to be raptors and other predators, Sullivan says, as cleared-out landscapes could make hunting easier.

What the Amazon fires mean for wild animals

What the Amazon fires mean for wild animals “In the Amazon, nothing is adapted to fire.” 10 percent of Earth’s animal species live there.

Wildlife traditionally refers to undomesticated animal species, but has come to include all organisms that grow or live wild in an area without being introduced by humans. Wildlife can be found in all ecosystems.

Where the wild things are: What happens to animals when they’re caught in a forest blaze.

Are there other consequences for wild animals?

Magnusson is most concerned about the overall repercussions of forest loss.

“Once you take the rainforest away, [you lose] 99 percent of all species,” he says. If these wildfires were a one-off, he wouldn’t necessarily be worried, he says, but he notes there’s been a fundamental change in policy in Brazil “that encourages deforestation.” He’s referring to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s commitment to open up the Amazon for business. “The political signal that’s gone out is basically that there’s no law anymore, so anybody can do what they want.”

Conservationists and concerned citizens have taken social media, and #PrayForAmazonas became Twitter’s top-trending hashtag on Wednesday. Many criticized the Bolsonaro government’s policies. Others expressed concern that the global demand for beef incentivizes the accelerated clearing of land for cattle ranching. Environmentalists are also calling attention to the consequences that a burning Amazon—often called the lungs of the planet—would have on climate change. By Thursday, #PrayForAmazonas had spurred momentum for a spin-off hashtag: #ActForAmazonas.

There’s an area along the southern border of the Amazon rainforest, in the Brazilian states of Pará, Mato Grosso, and Rondônia, called the “deforestation arc,” Magnusson says. There, wildfire is pushing the edge of the rainforest north, possibly changing the border forever.

“We know the least about it,” he says of this region. “We may lose species without ever knowing they were there.”

Nearly 2,000 new fires have started in the Amazon in the last 48 hours despite burning ban from government.
Fires in the Amazon rainforest continue despite a ban on burning. Over 50% of Brazil's fires in 2019 took place in the rainforest.

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