South American countries have seen a dramatic increase in numbers of fires in recent weeks, which is causing devastation to wetlands.
According to data from WWF, the Amazon and Pantanal wetlands in Brazil had the highest numbers of fires this year during the month of August.
In the Brazilian Amazon, of the 43,013 fires recorded in the first eight months of the year, 66.5 Percent occurred in August. This is despite the Brazilian army promising greater control over fires in the world’s largest tropical rainforest.
The WWF cites the main reason for the increased number of fires in this part of the Amazon as being the deforestation of public lands and the expansion of pastures.
Wetlands play a crucial role in protecting surrounding areas from flooding, removing pollutants from the water and reducing the impacts of climate change.
“If these trends continue, there will be devastating consequences in the long run due to the release of millions of extra tons of carbon dioxide, loss of species, and destruction of vital ecosystems. Besides, fires pose a risk of serious health problems, in addition to threatening local livelihoods”, says Mariana Napolitano, WWF Brazil's Head of Sciences.
There’s also been an increase of 220 Percent in the number of fires this year in Pantanal, with 58.5 Percent taking place in August. Severe drought is the main reason for the record burning in this region. In addition, many Pantanal areas that should still be wet have overgrown and dry vegetation, which contributes to the increase in fires.
Argentina’s wetlands are experiencing the worst fires in a decade, caused by drought and being made worse by low water levels in the Parana River delta region. During an interview with the Associated Press, Argentina’s Environment Minister Juan Cabandié blamed cattle ranchers for the fires, demanding legal action is taken against the alleged culprits.
More than 18,000 fires have destroyed a large part of the region. It’s an area rich in biodiversity, home to a variety of wildlife, and a unique ecosystem that provides oxygen and drinking water to millions of people.