Amazon burning will cause more drought and harm to our Barrier Reef

Media release
26 August 2019

Australia faces consequences from the wildfires currently ravaging the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, according to a Deakin environmental expert.

Australia faces consequences from the wildfires currently ravaging the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, according to a Deakin environmental expert.

Professor Brett Bryan from Deakin's School of Life and Environmental Sciences said the images, some of which show the extent of the devastation as seen from space, are worrying scientists around the world. He believes the sheer scale of the fires, and the Brazilian government's inability to control them, will cause environmental harm in Australia.

"We're looking at double the number of fires this year in the Amazon rainforest, with a spate of nearly 10,000 individual blazes occurring over the last week or so. This is cause for significant alarm," Professor Bryan said.

"These ancient forests and soils store billions of tonnes of carbon, and when burned, this is omitted as greenhouse gases into the atmosphere which increases the global heating effect."

When considering what this means for the Australian environment, Professor Bryan warns that the fires could have ramifications as far away as Australia.

"Most worryingly, we end up with a vicious cycle at work, with the potential to runaway out of control," Professor Bryan said.

"As global heating and drying increases the amount of fires, the fires further increase global heating, in turn leading to more fires. The problem just keeps compounding.

"This will impact Australia by contributing to more frequent and severe droughts and warmer oceans, which we know are killing our iconic Great Barrier Reef."

Professor Bryan says that the Amazon rainforest cannot recover from wildfires in the same way that many Australian forests can from bushfires.

"The Amazon is home to an innumerable number of plants and animals, many of which are found nowhere else on Earth. The loss of these species is forever and diminishes all human kind, with the effect not just local or short term. Being a tropical rainforest it is not used to fire like Australian ecosystems," he said.

"There are several factors contributing to the increase of Wildfires in the Amazon including drought, climate warming and drying, and human activities including deforestation and wilful arson.

"There's significant competition for land in this region with ranchers emboldened by the Bolsonaro government who are looking to expand their operations at the expense of local native tribes which have seldom had contact the outside world."

An expert on the sustainability of coupled human and natural systems, Professor Bryan says that first and foremost these fires need to be put out.

"Australia has some of the best firefighters in the world and we should offer to help. Secondly the perpetrators should be brought to justice. Third, the Brazilian government needs to protect its rainforest, rather than encourage its demise." he said.

"A world without the Amazon rainforest will be a much diminished and more dangerous place."

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Media release Faculty of Science Engineering and Built Environment, School of Life and Environmental Sciences

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