Fires, carbon sequestration and rainfall


The Atlantic Ocean holds the key to western Amazon rainfall


In 2010, catastrophic fires ravaged huge tracts of the western Amazon, a region of rainforest that until just a few years earlier was considered beyond the reach of serious drought.

Those flames followed the major fires of 2005, which were also caused by extreme drought.

Both of these conflagrations imperilled communities and livelihoods, sending massive pulses of carbon into the atmosphere.

With each destructive fire, the forests of the western Amazon become more susceptible to drying and further burning.

And that is a big problem according to Lou Verchot, one of the authors of a new study and Director, Forests and Environment Research at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

“Many climate mitigation initiatives involve removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it on land in trees and forests.  There are many initiatives to restore degraded forests or expand agroforestry as carbon sequestration measures, for example,” he says.

“Fire is a huge risk to these investments and one fire can undo a decade or more of work.  If we can predict fire risks, we can factor these elements into carbon sequestration schemes and improve their performance.”


Verchot along with other scientists from CIFOR and the  International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) have found part of the solution may lie thousands of kilometers away from the Western Amazon – in the Atlantic Ocean.

Read thee full article: CIFOR



Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.