The Rain Forest Can Recover After Fire, but It’s Not the Same

In 2019, hundreds of fires across the Amazon burned through enough rain forest to fill the state of New Jersey. At the peak of the fires in August, smoke plunged São Paulo, hundreds of kilometers away, into midday darkness. The 2020 fire season was even more severe. Many of the blazes were traced to deforestation, which hit a 10-year high in the Brazilian Amazon in 2020. There, fire is a tool used by farmers and ranchers to clear land, but when conditions are hot and dry, the burns can escape uncontrolled into the rain forest. Fires linked to deforestation were up 50% in 2019 and another 23% in 2020.

Fires can have profound impacts on the landscape; converting rain forest to pasture or agricultural land leads to shifts in…

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