CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Hundreds of fires continue to burn in the Amazon Rainforest, and they have been for close to a month.
While fires are not out of the ordinary, experts say this year they are worse than ever. And the after effects may not be contained to South America.
In Turner Hall at the University of Illinois is the National Resources and Environmental Sciences Department. Department head Jeff Brawn knows the area well, having studied the ecosystem and indigenous birds there. He says with fires of this size, losing the water in the soil is the worst possible scenario.
“Those trees that are burning, store a lot of carbon, in their tree trunks and below ground,” says Brawn. “And if we lose a lot of that vegetation to fire, it literally goes up in smoke and adds concentration to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”
Countries around the world have started offering aid to Brazil, where a majority of the Amazon is. France alone has offered $20 million for relief funds. Recent reports of devastation have caught the attention of the United Nations.
“We’re very concerned about these fires,” says Stephane Dujarric. “Both for the immediate damage that they’re causing, and also because sustaining forests is crucial in our fight against climate change.”
As someone who has spent time studying there, Brawn adds that this hits close to home.
“It’s heartbreaking,” says Brawn. “Because when you know about what you’re losing. I value biodiversity and I want people to be able to see birds and I want intact forest ecosystems everywhere. It’s just heartbreaking to see what’s happening.”
Brawn added the carbon being released is enough to have an impact on weather in the Midwest in the future.
More than 77,000 fires have been reported in the Amazon this year. 10,000 have been in the last week. On Friday, the Brazilian government sent 44,000 troops to trouble spots to help fight the fire.