Costa Rica is the country with the best performance in forest fire prevention from Mexico to Panama. That is confirmed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA image published on Thursday.
The image by NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) reveals that Costa Rica has few sources of fire on a trend map on forest fires in the region.
The image summarizes the forest fires of the dry season 2018-2019, for Mexico and Central America. Each point in the image is equivalent to a focus of fire and there are at least 18,000 grouped.
According to the Sistema Nacional de Areas de Conservacion Costa Rica (SINAC) – National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) – this year’s wildfire season in Costa Rica recorded the most since 2000, due to the presence of the El Niño (drought) phenomenon.
In the first quarter of 2019, 41 already controlled forest fires devoured 1,505 hectares in protected wild areas; destruction higher than the 1,497 hectares of 2018.
Authorities also attended to 67 other forest fires that include private properties adjacent to protected areas, indigenous territories and other areas of the State’s natural heritage; totaling 108 controlled incidents.
That record makes the first quarter of 2019 the year with the highest number of fires attended since the same period of 2007.
Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, head of the Ministry of Environment and Energy (Minae), explained that forest fires are not natural phenomena, but by humans as the flames are used as a tool to deforest.
“This is common in Mexico and Central America and is exactly what happened in Brazil. Those fires in the Amazon occurred because of the agricultural practice to put the land into production. What happens is many burned areas are not good for agriculture or livestock,” he explained.
The minister added that Costa Rica has little deforestation compared to what occurs in the region and therefore few fires, compared to other tropical countries in the world, “because there has been much progress in establishing mechanisms through which forest conservation is productive and beneficial.”
Rodríguez added that tourist activity in Costa Rica keeps deforestation at bay. “Our tourism lives on conservation, biodiversity, promotes visits to forests and that gives our vegetation, our fauna a higher value than, say, dedicate it to livestock,” he said.
Another example, he said, is the Programa de Servicios Ambientales (Environmental Services Program), where forest owners are paid to fix carbon (ie leave trees intact) and that payment is more attractive than having cattle.
“In Costa Rica, with few exceptions, it is unprofitable to have livestock,” he added.
Not all fires are bad…
NASA says that fire is a recurring part of nature and not all fires are bad. “Fire clears away dead and dying underbrush, which can help restore forest ecosystems to good health,” explains NASA on its NEO website.
“Fire clears away dead and dying underbrush, which can help restore an ecosystem to good health,” the organization explains.
…But not all fires are good
NASA says fire can be used as a tool, but not all fires are good. Wildfires can destroy natural resources and human structures. Globally, fire plays a major role in Earth’s carbon cycle by releasing carbon into the air, and by consuming trees that would otherwise absorb carbon from the air during photosynthesis.