As the world warms, some of the most affected places on Earth are those becoming drier and hotter than ever before. These are the perfect conditions for fire.

Many dry ecosystems around the world are adapted for wildfire and can recover with time, but not all of them. Even those with resilience will struggle as fires continue to increase in frequency and scale.

2020 brought the worst drought in 100 years to the Brazilian Pantanal, where our partners ICAS (Wildlife Conservation Institute) and the Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative have long been working on wildlife protection and research. Intense fire saw an area 20 times the size of greater London burn, prompting the creation of numerous community firefighting teams that are already kitted and trained to protect 1000km2 of the Pantanal.

Similarly, the once damp peat forests of Sebangau, in the South of Indonesian Borneo were drained of their water table by logging canals in the 20th century. With a warming climate and the rich soils now so prone to fire, burning can spread throughout the soil itself. Peat forest is one the very best sinks for storing carbon, but likewise, when it’s allowed to burn or decay, huge amounts of greenhouse gasses are released into our atmosphere, as well as destroying the local ecosystem at the site of the fire.

In 2019 we supported the Borneo Nature Foundation’s efforts to kit out community groups with firefighting equipment to protect both the ecosystem and rural villages in the Sebangau region, and these communities were successful in ensuring no forest whatsoever was permanently destroyed despite the scale of the challenge imposed.

The successes of our partners in protecting human and wildlife spaces from worsening fires are incredible achievements, but we must solve the broader issues behind fire if we’re to solve the problem once and for all.