Reducing wildfires requires going beyond addressing the ignition sources and fighting the flames themselves, and also encouraging actions that limit forest flammability. Tackling deforestation remains key as it exposes forest edges to the hotter and drier microclimate of agricultural land, and contributes to regional reductions in rainfall.
Selective logging also plays a key role in making tropical forests more flammable. Walking in a selectively logged forest in the dry season, you feel the sun’s heat directly on your face and the leaf litter crackles and crunches underfoot. In contrast, unlogged primary forests are a shadier world where the leaf litter remains moist. Fire prevention needs to be a key condition of long-term forest stewardship. This will only work if widespread illegal logging is effectively controlled, as cheaper timber undermines the viability of best-practice forest management.
Finally, climate change itself is making dry seasons longer and forests more flammable. Increased temperatures are also resulting in more frequent tropical forest fires in non-drought years. And climate change may also be driving the increasing frequency and intensity of climate anomalies, such as El Niño events that affect fire season intensity across Amazonia.
Addressing these challenges requires integrated national and global actions, collaboration between scientists and policy makers, and long-term funding – approaches that the current Brazilian administration seems intent on destroying.The Conversation