Monkey Forest Tales: Thinking about fires and some recent news

During past weeks there were some devastating news about fires in northern Argentina that reached a field station, Estación Biológica Corrientes in San Cayetano Provincial Park, Corrientes, Argentina (more information here). At this field station a population of black and gold howler monkeys that has been studied over 30 years was partially decimated by fires.

The reason why I bring this story to this blog is because those fires were started as part of a periodic practice that it is also done in the study area, during the dry season (December to March). When I hear the news, not only I felt a deep sadness for the people and the monkeys but it also reminds me of the next dry season approaching to my study area and the fragility of some of the forest fragments in which we work.

Fires has been used in the study area to regrowth pastures and it has been a long time traditional practice in the natural savannas in the Orinoquian region, however sometimes those fires get out of control and enter to the forest burning complete forest fragments and all that live inside them. Local people practice of burning garbage close to forest edge also increase the risk of wildfires destroying forest fragments in the area during the dry season.

Some of the traditional practices in the region that have been used for long time and seems to have worked, except on very dry months, it’s a deep ditch in the border of forest edges or areas were they want the fires to stop. Mostly this has been effective, the problem is when there is wind and it is very dry, the fire jump and sometimes catches dry fallen leaves that starts a fire inside of the forest.

These practices combined with the continues reduction of forest fragments that make the seasonal streams get dryer every year are becoming a real threat to the forest and all the animals who live in there, in the whole region. More regeneration and planting native trees can improve both, controlling the fires and keeping the water flow in those seasonal streams. As well as prepare and improve fire practices that need to be restricted in very dry months.

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