The Amazon rainforest, where 10 percent of the Earth’s animal species live, have been hit by raging fires. What does it mean for the animals?
Wildfires are currently churning through the Amazon rainforest with the most intense blazes for almost a decade. More than 80,000 fires have been reported in the Amazon this year alone - an 84 percent increase over the same period last year, according to Brazilian space agency INPE. The Amazon rainforest is known as the “lungs of the world” and provides 20 percent of all the world's oxygen.
In addition, the rainforest is home to one in 10 species on Earth.
Home to a bewildering array of wildlife, animals including macaws, toucans, tyrant flycatchers, capybaras, tapirs, sloths, squirrel monkeys, red howler monkeys, jaguars, caimans, anacondas, tarantulas, leaf-cutter ants, scarlet ibis, and black skimmers all live in the burning forest.
The Amazon Rainforest is the world’s richest and most-varied biological reservoir, containing several million species of insects, plants, birds, and other forms of life, many still unrecorded.
Major wildlife includes jaguar, manatee, tapir, red deer, capybara, many other types of rodents, and several types of monkeys.
What do the Amazon rainforest fires mean for the animals?
William Magnusson, a researcher specialising in biodiversity monitoring at the National Institute of Amazonian Research (INPA) in Manaus, Brazil said: “In the Amazon, nothing is adapted to fire.”
Mr Magnusson told National Geographic the rainforest is so uniquely rich and diverse precisely because it doesn’t really burn.
A growing number of manmade fires have plagued the Amazon in recent years, imperilling the ecosystem and threatening the animals who live there.
Mazeika Sullivan, associate professor at Ohio State University’s School of Environment and Natural Resources told the publication the fires are likely to take a “massive toll on wildlife in the short term.”
This is because animals have very few choices: they can try to hide by burrowing or going into water, or they can perish.
But Prof Sullivan said in this situation, a lot of animals will die either from flames, heat from the flames or smoke inhalation.
The professor said: “You’ll have immediate winners and immediate losers.
“In a system that isn’t adapted to fire, you’ll have a lot more losers than you will in other landscapes.”
However, some animals may have a larger chance of surviving than others.
Prof Sullivan said large, fast-moving animals like jaguars and pumas may be able to escape, as could some birds.
But animals including sloths or anteaters, as well as smaller creatures such as frogs and lizard, may die because they don’t move or spot the fires quick enough.
He said: “Escape into the canopy but choose the wrong tree and an animal is likely to die.”
Aquatic animals are mostly safe in the short term, however, Prof Sullivan warns of trouble further down the road.
He said: “Longer-term effects are likely to be more catastrophic.”
This is because the entire ecosystem of the burning sections of rainforest will be altered.
For example, the dense canopy of the Amazon rainforest largely blocks sunlight from reaching the ground.
This could fundamentally change the energy flow of the ecosystem and have effects on the entire food chain.