Earth has already been heating up due to the emissions of greenhouse gases and deforestation. We have been calling it global warming. It is now going up-in flames as well. The number of wild-fires has been increasing exponentially over the decades but since last year, the numbers have gone up rather drastically with an 80% increase in the number of fires across Amazonia, Siberia, and Alaska.
Very recently, wild-fires have been brought into everybody’s attention by the week-long burning of Amazon rainforest. While wild-fires are not an uncommon phenomenon, the rate at which their frequency and magnitude are increasing is alarming. Wild-fires may be natural or man-made and up to an extent, they are important in maintaining the ecological balance by burning the old trees and making way for the new ones. It also replenishes the soil naturally and the new plants and trees that take place of the old ones get a fertile environment to row in. Purposeful burning of forest is mostly to clear the land for agricultural use or industrial purposes or building houses.
Why is the burning of Amazon rainforest a big deal? The answer goes beyond the one obvious that it is the lungs of the earth and cleans almost a quarter of the earth’s air. It shelters the most diverse set of flora and fauna and we don’t know which species are going to survive this disaster. The rainforest is also responsible for the water-cycle of the whole area. The trees suck up the ground water and that water is then evaporated into the air. This is why it rains all year round in the forest. It also plays a critical role in the amount of rain its surrounding areas get. It maintains the amount of moisture the environment gets and the influence of that is way more widespread than merely the continent of South America.
The most pressing concern right now is that, due to number of fires, the fire-resistant rain forest might turn into grassland or a savannah which would lead to a drastic increase in the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.
Arron Stubbins, a professor at Northeastern University says, “You can imagine the loss of carbon you get by clearing a rainforest and replacing it with savannah or grassland and then comparing the amount of carbon that the two can store.”