- Title: South America forest fires could disrupt rainfall in region's farm belt -experts
- Date: 11th October 2019
- Summary: SAN JOSE DE CHIQUITOS, BOLIVIA (RECENT - OCTOBER 3, 2019) (REUTERS) VARIOUS, CAPYBARA FAMILY FLEEING CHARRED AREAS
- Embargoed: 25th October 2019 16:06
- Keywords: Bolivia wildfires cattle agriculture Amazon forest fires
- Location: Ã‘EMBY GUASÃš + CHIQUITANIA + SANTA CRUZ DE LA SIERRA + PARQUE NACIONAL MADIDI + SAN JOSE DE CHIQUITOS + SANTA ELENA + SANTA ANA + SANTÃSIMA TRINIDAD + PANDO, BOLIVIA / ALDEA CRAVIRI, BRAZIL
- City: Ã‘EMBY GUASÃš + CHIQUITANIA + SANTA CRUZ DE LA SIERRA + PARQUE NACIONAL MADIDI + SAN JOSE DE CHIQUITOS + SANTA ELENA + SANTA ANA + SANTÃSIMA TRINIDAD + PANDO, BOLIVIA / ALDEA CRAVIRI, BRAZIL
- Country: Bolivia
- Topics: Disaster/Accidents,Fires
- Reuters ID: LVA004B0NMJPJ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:Forest fires that swept across Bolivia and Brazil this year could disrupt rainfall distribution across South America's grains-and-beef producing regions in unpredictable ways for years to come, a scientist and meteorologist said.
Recent rains in both countries have helped put out the wildfires, which were likely started by farmers and ranchers using slash-and-burn agricultural methods.
They have, however, destroyed large swaths of forest that lock in precipitation in the region, threatening a system of clouds known as "air rivers" in the Amazon that distributes 23 billion cubic meters of water across South America per year, said Leonardo Melgarejo, an agronomist with Brazil's Santa Catarina Federal University.
That might mean less rain in places that produce beef and soy in not just Brazil and Bolivia but also Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, said Melgarejo, potentially knocking a key driver of regional economic growth.
Destruction of just 5% more of the Amazon rainforest will trigger a worsening cycle of drought, fires and deforestation, Melgarejo said.
"We're very close to a moment of collapse," Melgarejo told Reuters at a gathering of scientists in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, a lowland region hit hard by this year's fires.
Farmers were already concerned about dryness in Argentina's western farm areas before the fires. The country is a major exporter of soy, corn and wheat, and it is the top supplier of soymeal livestock feed.
Brazilian right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro and Bolivian leftist President Evo Morales, ideological opposites, have both been criticized for backing an expansion of soy and beef production in forested regions that environmentalists blame for the rash of fires this year. Both have downplayed the impacts amid the outcry.
Fires in Bolivia have swept over more than 5 million hectares, at least a two-decade record, according to Bolivian environmental group Friends of Nature Foundation.
Morales is up for re-election Oct. 20, with recent polls showing he may not have enough support to avoid a run-off vote for the first time ever.
Last week, Paraguay's parliament passed a resolution urging President Mario Abdo to ask Bolivia for compensation for damages to Paraguay's flora and fauna from fires lawmakers said started in Bolivia.
(Production: Santiago Limachi / Monica Machicao)
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