In Indonesia during 1997–1998, fires caused by humans damaged or destroyed almost 50,000 km2 of forest in Borneo and Sumatra. Research shows that the density of hornbill species decreased because of sparse canopy and scarcity of fruit.
In rainforest, natural fires are extremely rare, and birds and other biodiversity suffer greatly when human-initiated fires occur. Burnt forest may take hundreds or possibly thousands of years to return to its original state (Chambers et al. 1998). Human activity worsens the risk of fire and its negative impacts for a variety of reasons. For example:
In Indonesia during 1997–1998, fires damaged or destroyed almost 50,000 km2 of forest in Borneo and Sumatra (an area larger than Switzerland) (Liew et al. 1998). Although made worse by a drought induced by El Niño, these fires were caused by humans. The 1997 fires released as much carbon into the atmosphere as the total annual carbon intake of the world’s vegetation, equivalent to Europe’s current annual carbon emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels (Page et al. 2002). Research at Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, Sumatra, showed that the density of hornbill species decreased by 28–63% in fire-damaged forest, because of the sparse canopy and scarcity of fruit (Anggraini et al. 2000).
Bhattacharya, S. (2003) Wild coal fires are a ‘global catastrophe’. http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99993390.
BirdLife International (2004) In Indonesia, human-initiated fires are responsible for massive losses of rainforest . Presented as part of the BirdLife State of the world's birds website. Available from: http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/sowb/casestudy/124. Checked: 26/11/2014
|Key message: Human actions resulting in habitat destruction and degradation are the main causes of declines|