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As Amazon urbanizes, rural fires burn unchecked
Date:12/10/2012

tions and proximity to roads correlated with increased fires. But fires increased most powerfully both in frequency and size where rural population declines were the steepestan indication that a certain level of human presence, with neighbors watching out for each other, helped damp down destructive outbreaks, while fires took over human-altered landscapes once the people thinned out.

"Projected declines in rural population across Amazon countries and expansion of road infrastructure combined with more frequent droughts predicted by some global climate models presage greater damage from fires in the future," the authors say. However, they see hope in some recent developments. These include their own work showing that big droughts can be predicted using observations of sea-surface temperatures, which could lead to early warnings of dry seasons to come. Also, many Amazonian lands are now being taken up with big plantations of oil palms, which are not so susceptible to fire. Unfortunately, a separate study by team members last year showed that the plantations are most often being carved out of still-intact forestnot the more flammable former small farmsbut team members say government policies encouraging conversion of small farms to oil palm could help.


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Contact: Kevin Krajick
kkrajick@ei.columbia.edu
212-854-9729
The Earth Institute at Columbia University
Source:Eurekalert  

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