Friday, January 10, 2014

Forging fire resilience on Amazon forest fringes in Peru

Barbara Fraser in Forest News: ...As forest conversion to agriculture and pasture lands are intensified in the Peruvian Amazon, so is the intentional use of fire. Because fields become overgrown quickly in the tropics, oil palm planters, farmers and cattle ranchers burn fields to clear weeds and set fires in pastures to eliminate ticks that annoy livestock. Problems arise when the wind whips a fire out of control and endangers the surrounding forest.

Although humidity generally stops fire from spreading beyond the edge of a field or pasture and into the forest, scientists fear that repeated burning could dry the understory vegetation (underbrush), making the forest more susceptible to burning in the future. Combined with climate change, survival of the forest could be at stake.

[Victor] GutiĆ©rrez, a Colombian-born research scientist at Columbia University’s Earth Institute in New York, is working with scientists with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) to study the relationships among humans, fires and forests in Peru’s Ucayali region.

“We want to see how climate
, land-cover changes and social processes influence the occurrence and spread of fire. We also want to understand how the management of different types of vegetation in the landscape could be used to control or reduce fires while increasing the ability of secondary forests to grow and provide ecosystem services, such as wildlife habitat, carbon storage and water regulation.”

...“Fire is becoming more pervasive in the Amazon, but the ecosystem is not adapted to fire conditions,” GutiĆ©rrez said. “Fire harms human health, damages crops, and it also has important impacts on ecosystem processes. If we can keep fire out of areas where the forest would otherwise regenerate, then those areas could develop enough to reduce the likelihood of fires and to provide those ecosystem services.” ....

Seen from a NASA satellite, fire and smoke in the Amazon

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