MAAP #110: Major Finding – Many Brazilian Amazon Fires Follow 2019 Deforestation

September 23, 2019

In MAAP #109 we reported a major finding critical to understanding this year’s fires in the Brazilian Amazon: many of the 2019 fires followed 2019 deforestation events.

Here, we present our more comprehensive estimate: 125,000 hectares (310,000 acres) deforested in 2019 and then later burned in 2019 (July-September). This is equivalent to 172,000 soccer fields.*

Thus, the issue is both deforestation AND fire; the fires are often a lagging indicator of recent agricultural deforestation.

This key finding flips the widely reported assumption that the fires are burning intact rainforests for crops and cattle.

Instead, we find it’s the other way around, the forests were cut and then burned, presumably to enrich the soils. It is “slash and burn” agriculture, not “burn and slash.”

The policy implications are important: national and international focus needs to be on minimizing new deforestation, in addition to fire prevention and management.

This breakthrough data is based on our analysis of an extensive satellite imagery archive, allowing us to visually confirm areas that were deforested in 2019 and later burned in 2019 (see Methodology).

Below we present a new series of 7 striking timelapse videos that vividly show examples of 2019 deforestation followed by fires (See Base Map below for exact zoom locations).