Deforestation and wildfire threaten the resilience of Amazonian ecosystems, the critical ecosystem services that they provide, and the health and well-being of millions of people who reside in the region. The IAI Small Grant MAP-Fire research team in collaboration with the Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development Acre-Queimadas project have released two reports on the 2019 air quality and burned areas in the State of Acre, Brazil, in the Southwestern Amazon.
The investigators analyzed data from 30 air quality sensors in 22 municipalities in the State of Acre. Their results show that in 2019, there were 21 days in Acre when air pollution levels exceeded the daily maximum limit recommended by the World Health Organization. The poor air quality was associated with the 2019 fires, which burned an area of 1,802 km2, an area 80% greater than that burned in 2018 in Acre.
The inhalation of aerosols from fires has the potential to adversely impact human health. Exposure to wildfire smoke increases the risk of illness and death due to respiratory and cardiovascular complications. In the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic, a viral illness that causes respiratory complications, smoke exposure could potentially exacerbate the severity of symptoms.
Wildfire smoke can reach large geographic regions depending on wind patterns. For this reason, the results of this study are relevant for the health of the broader population surrounding the burned Amazonian areas. Investigators are currently working to generate similar reports for Peru and Bolivia.
Wildfires in this area result from a combination of hydro-climatic conditions and human pressure to deforest the land often for cattle ranching and agriculture. Fires are driving the reduction of Amazonian carbon stocks and biodiversity, while contributing to greenhouse gas emissions that fuel global climate warming.
Although this is not the first time that the air quality in the area has deteriorated due to fires, it is the first time that the impacts on air quality have been measured in situ via a collaborative effort by government agencies, universities and other institutions supported by this IAI Small Grants project. Fore more information: Small Grant MAP-Fire