EXPLAINER-Why are the Amazon fires sparking a crisis for Brazil - and the world?

(Reuters News, 25 Aug 2019) Scientists fear that continued destruction of the Amazon could push it toward a tipping point, after which the region would convert from rainforest into savannah.

A record number of fires ravaging the Amazon has drawn international outrage because of the rainforest's importance to the global environment and prompted Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to dispatch the military to assist in firefighting.

Here is what you need to know about the disaster.

WHY DOES THE AMAZON MATTER? The Amazon - 60% of which is in Brazil - is the world's largest tropical rainforest. It is considered a biodiversity hot spot, with many unique species of plants and animals.

The dense jungle absorbs a huge amount of the world's carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas believed to be the biggest factor in climate change, so scientists say that preserving the Amazon is vital to fighting global warming.

HOW BAD ARE THE FIRES? Forest fires in all of Brazil have hit the highest level since at least 2013 and are up 84% this year to August 23, compared to the same period a year ago, according to Brazil space research agency INPE. There have been 78,383 fires so far this year, with roughly half of those in August alone.

Eight out of nine Amazon states have seen an increase, with the largest state of Amazonas seeing a 146% rise. Residents on the ground in the states of Rondonia and Amazonas states said while there are fires every year they have never seen it this bad, with clouds of smoke blanketing the region.

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Reuters News, 25 Aug 2019: EXPLAINER-Why are the Amazon fires sparking a crisis for Brazil - and the world?