Fires in Paraguay: 25 October 1999

Fires in Paraguay

25 October 1999

Extreme Drought in Paraguay Responsible for Increased Fire Activity
According to the Office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Paraguay, Paraguay is being affected by drought growing more and more severe since the month of June 1999. According to meteorological forecasts for the next three months, the country will receive below normal rainfall, and temperatures are expected to be above normal.

Significant fire events were identified by NESDIS/OSEI with the NOAA-14 POES AVHRR LAC satellite on 22 Oktober 1999.

click here to enlarge (919 KB)

Fig.1. The image shows fires and smoke plumes from areas of fire burning in Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil.

According to the OCHA Situation Report No. 1 on “Paraguay – Drought” of 22 October 1999 the planting season of the main crops (cotton, maize, beans, vegetables) should have started in September but, due to drought, the farmers have not been able to begin relevant tasks such as tilling and planting. Severe frosts have also affected various regions of the country. Following reports from the National Emergency Committee (CEN), all Departments in Paraguay have been hit by this phenomenon, in particular the Department of Concepción which, in addition, had to face frosts and, lately (during the month of September), uncontrolled fires.

General Remarks on Fire in Ecosystems of Paraguay

The main vegetation types affected by fire in Paraguay are dry and semi-humid Chaco (Chaco seco and semi-húmedo). The vegetation of the Chaco region is, a mixture of savannas, thorn shrublands and hardwood forests alternating in belts and patches. Evidence suggests that fire has been a natural component of the Chaco ecosystem for thousands of years. Indians used fire for warfare and hunting. In fact, “Chaco” means “a site for hunting” in the Quichua language. During the dry season large fires regularly sweep across the savannas and shrublands and on some occasions hit the hardwood forest that burn with high intensity. Tolerance of species to fire is mixed. The fire cycle is around 3-5 years in savannas. Some of the Chaco areas are “Palmares”, open palm stands with periodically waterlogged grass understorey which are fire adapted.

Despite the ecological adaptations to fire and the historic evidence of fire in the Chaco system, the increasing land-use pressure leads to more frequent fires. During exceptionally extended droughts such as the current one the fires cause considerable damage and spread to those places which normally do not burn.

Please also visit the GFMC archive where remotely sensed fire imageries can be found under “Brazil and Neighbouring Countries”.

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