According to Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNal) Department of Biology Professor Dolors Armenteras, frequent forest fires now occurring around the city increase carbon emissions, heighten greenhouse effect gases and disturb the air quality.
When biomass burns, the carbon retained by trees rises towards the atmosphere. In this case smoke has reached several areas of the city impacting the health of the inhabitants of the capital city of Colombia.
UNal Department of Chemical Engineering Professor Luis Carlos Belalcázar along with the Air Quality Research Group says the air quality is not only affected by the fires nearby, but also by fires or actions occurred in the eastern plains of Colombia. Pollution travels hundreds of kilometers in just one day and they proved that it increases the mortality and morbidity rates in the city.
Furthermore although it does not include a whole lot of land, these frequent fires lessen the forest areas and they lose their capability to recover.
“The area is also more prone to fires when they harbor non-native tree species which are less resistant. Once the fires are over they must perform a follow-up to become cognizant how much time it will take to recover, how many trees reemerge or if on the contrary the area becomes void of vegetation,” said Armenteras.
These forests are also vitally important for their moisture retention capability. “The more they are preserved; the accumulated water will remain to continue to feed the water streams of the area. With the loss of forests and natural habitat, water streams are more liable to diminish,” she said.
Furthermore the soil loses its properties and is more vulnerable to erosion. Additionally new plant growth is more demanding making the land more prone to landslides.
Animals on their part have to look for new places to live but with loss of their habitat they have less places where to thrive and have to adapt to new conditions and many do not survive the new conditions. “There may be animals in reproductive phase or birds nesting and they are more vulnerable to this situation.
“The inhabitants of Bogotá are proud of our landscape and our green hillsides, but with these fires we are losing them and our mountain view is becoming altered,” she added.
The causes of the fires are varied. They can be due to a combination of high temperatures, climatic conditions and the proximity to urban areas; besides people throw their trash in these areas and inclusively make bonfires. Fires often occur due to human activity.
Furthermore the expert insists on allotting more funds for this type of research so it will be easier to anticipate these forest fires. “We need to know more about our forest to become cognizant how to respond to a fire, how to prevent it and implement better alert systems as well as carry out environmental education campaigns and cleaning brigades with the inhabitants of these areas so they can protect the environment,” she said.
Agencia de noticias UNAL