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South America: Forest Fires: Information Bulletin no. 1

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Situation Report
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The situation

In recent years, forest fires have become an emerging and continuous danger in South America. These fires cause damage to the ecosystem, biodiversity, livelihoods with a strong impact on communities in these areas and others affected by the effects. The number of forest fires to date in 2019 has significantly surpassed the figures for the same period in the past four years.

From January to August of this year, among the South American countries most affected by an increase in the number of forest fires are Brazil with 75,336 (85% increase); Venezuela with 26,491 (19% increase); Bolivia with 17,154 (114% increase); Peru with 5,681, (104% increase); Paraguay with 9,861 (7% increase). The occurrence of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) has contributed to a decrease in rainfall in several locations, which in turn cause droughts and significant water reduction in forests. The illegal burning of land and crops complicates this situation and augments the risk of forest fires.

Regional Impact

• In the past two weeks, forest fires have been registered mainly in Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru, covering large areas of forest and fields. Recent attention has been placed on the forest fires in the Amazon, a vast region of central and northern South America that comprises the rainforest of the Amazon River Basin. The Amazon is considered the global lung as it produces 20% of the oxygen on the planet, in addition to having 50% of flora varieties in the world and extensive fauna.

• To date, there have not been registered human losses or injuries due to this year’s forest fires. However, these fires have affected biodiversity, fauna, flora and generated a negative impact on the ecosystem.

• The current risk is the spread of these forest fires in Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru, which would increase the dangers to native populations, indigenous peoples, other inhabitants of these regions and nearby communities. South American countries are joining efforts to control and mitigate the impact of the current forest fires.

• The impact on the Amazon can cause an alteration in humidity and rainfall levels in the region, which can lead to increased areas of drought.