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Thousands of fires burning across Brazil’s Amazon rainforest have captured international attention over the past week. The fires are mainly being set by ranchers and farmers seeking to clear land for cultivation.
The expansion of slash-and-burn tactics is a result of pro-development government policies. Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has relaxed enforcement of laws against deforestation and encouraged mining and farming across both biological reserves and indigenous territory in the Amazon since his inauguration in January. The last time trees were being cleared at these rates was in 2008.
That rapid deforestation, not necessarily the fires, is cause to be “freaking out,” according to tropical fire ecologist Paulo Brando of the University of California, Irvine. Not only are the fires releasing huge amounts of carbon dioxide and smoke, he said, but they’re also a sign that the Amazon is under direct threat of destruction.
Here’s a look at some of the numbers that define the fires burning in the Amazon this week.
Smoke billows during a fire in an area of the Amazon rainforest near Humaita, Amazonas State, Brazil, August 17, 2019. Photo by Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters
The number of fires in the Brazilian Amazon region so far in 2019, reported by the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research as of Monday, August 26 at 4 p.m. ET.
This number is smaller than some reports — that claim more than 80,000 fires have been burning since January — because it only refers to hot spots located by satellite in the Amazônia Legal (Legal Amazon) region of Brazil.
The number of countries that contain part of the Amazon rainforest. They are Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.
Watch: Instagram story with more footage of Amazon fires
The approximate amount of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil alone. That’s why Brazil’s Amazon region is of major international concern. However, Bolivia is also fighting fires and increased deforestation in its portion of the Amazon.
A satellite image shows smoke rising from Amazon rainforest fires in the State of Rondonia, just southwest of Porto Velho, Brazil in the upper Amazon River basin on August 15, 2019. Photo credit Satellite image ©2019 Maxar Technologies/Handout via Reuters
The amount that G-7 countries, which collectively have a GDP of nearly $34 trillion, have pledged to fight fires in nations that are home to parts of the Amazon rainforest. For comparison, G-7 nations spent approximately twice as much — $40 million — on the current summit in Biarritz.
The amount Germany and Norway had planned to donate to the Amazon Fund, a UN REDD+ initiative meant to funnel money from wealthy nations to fund sustainability projects in Brazil. After the Bolsonaro government unilaterally changed the fund’s structure and shut down its steering committee this year, both countries suspended their contributions.
The number of troops that the Brazilian government has pledged to send to help fight the fires.
A snake is seen while a tract of the Amazon jungle burns as it is cleared by loggers and farmers in Porto Velho, Brazil August 24, 2019. Photo by REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino
The highest possible estimate for how much of the planet’s oxygen comes from the Amazon rainforest. There are plenty of other reasons to worry about the Amazon, but oxygen isn’t one of them.
The proportion of all known species on the planet that live in the Amazon. So far, researchers have described 40,000 species of plants, 3,000 species of fish and more than 1,000 species of birds that live in the forest. Some scientists estimate that Brazil is likely home to a total of nearly 2 million species of invertebrates, plants, fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles.
The number of indigenous groups that live in the Amazon and depend on the forest and rivers for food and shelter.
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