Brazil burns an area larger than England each year

An unprecedented survey, carried out by the MapBiomas Project after analyzing satellite images between 1985 and 2020, shows the impact of fire on the national territory. In each of these 36 years, Brazil burned an area larger than England: 150,957 km² per year, or 1.8% of the country. The accumulated result for the period amounts to practically a fifth of the national territory: 1,672,142 km², or 19.6% of Brazil, with 65% of the total burned area being native vegetation. The state of Mato Grosso had the highest occurrence of fire, followed by Pará and Tocantins.

Although the large peaks of burned area in Brazil have occurred mainly in years impacted by extreme drought events (1987, 1988, 1993, 1998, 1999, 2007, 2010, 2017), high deforestation rates mainly before 2005 and after 2019 had a great impact on the increase in the area burned in these periods. The dry season, between July and October, concentrates 83% of fires and fires in the country.

Among the five Brazilian biomes, none was as affected as the Pantanal: 57% of its territory was burned at least once between 1985 and 2020. The grassland vegetation is the most affected in the biome, during wet periods, plants accumulate biomass and in the dry period, dry vegetation becomes fuel for fire. “These characteristics of the biome, associated with climatic events of drought and strong winds, make fire a problem to be controlled. Issues related to the use of fire as a form of management, in inadequate conditions, can lead to the occurrence of uncontrolled fires over large areas”, warns the coordinator of MapBiomas Pantanal, Eduardo Reis Rosa.

The researcher explains that the Pantanal has vegetation adapted to fire, however, the high frequency can make it harmful to fauna and flora biodiversity. "Questions related to the use of fire must be integrated with the conditions of use of pastures, in a preventive, controlled way and following the Pantanal cycles and adequate meteorological conditions, with the objective of protecting the biome".

The mapping is unprecedented and reveals every piece of Brazilian territory in the last 36 years that suffered from fire. For Ane Alencar, coordinator of MapBiomas Fogo, “by knowing where it was burned, it is possible to understand the dynamics of the fire and which areas are more vulnerable in the future. Thus, mapping is essential to understand the frequency, intensity of fire, for combat planning and to point out areas of greatest risk”. Cerrado and Amazon represent 85% of the burned area in the last 36 years. "The Amazon is not a biome in which fire is part of the ecosystem's natural dynamics, unlike the Cerrado, where natural fire is part of its evolutionary dynamics," says the researcher.

To arrive at these numbers, the MapBiomas team processed more than 150,000 images generated by the Landsat 5, 7 and 8 satellites from 1985 to 2020. With the help of artificial intelligence, the burned area was analyzed in each pixel of 30m X 30m of the more than 8.5 million square kilometers of Brazilian territory over the 36 years between 1985 and 2020, regardless of land use and coverage. In all, 108 terabytes of images were processed to show areas, years and months of greater and lesser incidence of fire.

Data on forest fires and fires are available in maps and annual, monthly and accumulated statistics for any period between 1985 and 2020 on the platform, open to all. It also includes fire frequency data, indicating the most affected areas over the past 36 years. The resolution is 30m, with an indication of the type of cover and land use that burned, allowing for territorial and land divisions by biome, state, municipality, hydrographic basin, conservation unit, indigenous land, settlements and areas with CAR.

Access MapBiomas Fire platform here

Access also the Fire Monitor, which presents monthly fire scars mapping of Brazil since 2019. To know more about the Fire Monitor Launch, watch the video below:

FactSheet with hightlights of the report (.pdf)

Download the infographic with data from the 1th MapBiomas Fire Collection here.

Watch the launch of the 1th MapBiomas Fire Collection:

Follow the release:
Brazil Revealed 1985-2020: The scars left by fire in Brazilian territory
August 16 (Monday) at 10:30 am
Live on YouTube: