The Source, our Annual Review 2019

Wetlands on fire

Equally concerning are the fires affecting peat - lands, such as in Indonesia. The drying out of peatlands through drainage makes them espe- cially fire-prone, and ignition can result in the emission of vast quantities of carbon dioxide, as well as impacting biodiversity and causing human widespread health hazards. Attention is now turning to fire prevention through the rewetting of drained peatlands. In Russia, millions of hectares of drained and abandoned peatlands are vulnerable to fires, such as those that covered Moscow in smoke during the extremely dry summer of 2010. Since then some 410 square kilometres of drained peatlands have been rewetted (see pages 29-30). And, over the past decade, the vulnerability to fire has been reduced fourfold, and the area put on a path to full restoration of its biodiversity and ability to store carbon. Wetlands, packed with layers of soaking peat and topped with living moss, can play a heroic part in curbing the effects of global climate change, but only if we protect those that remain and bring back the ones we humans have already damaged and destroyed.

Fires can occur naturally in different ecosys - tems and in some circumstances are consid- ered a vital natural process. But, when they are explosive, pervasive, persistent and unprec- edented in magnitude, it signals a worrying shift. 2019 was the year that saw a lethal combi- nation of El Niño weather pattern, rising tem- peratures, severe drought and the increased lighting of fires to clear land for agricultural expansion contribute to raging fires across Indonesia, Australia, the Pantanal and the Am- azon. Millions of hectares burned, with a dev- astating effect on wildlife, nature and people across whole continents. The world’s largest wetland, the Pantanal, has suffered a three-fold increase in outbreaks, than in 2018. The Brazilian Pantanal was hit by unprecedented fires that engulfed at least 2.4 million hectares across the region in October and November 2019, with second and third outbreaks up to early 2020, when fires were finally extinguished due to rain. Wetlands International called on government agencies and communities to work together to solve this situation.



Wetlands Annual Review 2019

Wetlands Annual Review 2019

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