Academic Papers


Mapping the deforestation footprint of nations reveals growing threat to tropical forests (2021)

This study quantifies and maps changes in global deforestation footprints over 15 years (2001–2015). It finds that many developed countries have increased the deforestation embodied in their imports, of which tropical forests are the most threatened biome. Consumption patterns of G7 countries drive an average loss of 3.9 trees per person per year. Some of the hotspots of deforestation are Southeast Asia, Madagascar, Liberia, Central America and the Amazonian rainforest.  

Grasslands and Open Savannas of the Dry Chaco (2020)

This paper summarises the knowledge about Dry Chaco. It also estimates current grazing stock rates on natural grasslands and savannas to propose an alternative approach to sustainably intensifying the use of these ecosystems. 

Near-complete loss of fire-resistant primary tropical forest cover in Sumatra and Kalimantan (2020)

This paper assesses the scale of loss and fragmentation of tropical forests in the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan. It found that primary forests are severely fragmented or degraded due to proximity to the forest edge. It also reveals that only 10% of the forest  left remains fire-resistant.

White-Sand Savannas Expand at the Core of the Amazon After Forest Wildfires (2021)

This paper maps 40 years of wildfire history and looks at whether repeatedly burnt forests can be replaced by white-sand savanna ecosystems. It finds that white-sand savannas are expanding in the heart of the Amazon as a result of recurring forest fires.

Clarifying Amazonia’s burning crisis (2019)

In a letter to the editor of Global Change Biology in the wake of the 2019 wildfire season, four academics evaluate the nature and extent of burning in the Amazon, comparing it to the Brazilian government’s claim that it was a “normal” year. They find that the number of active fires in August 2019 was the highest since 2010.

Amazonian Biomass Burning Enhances Tropical Andean Glaciers Melting (2019)

This paper demonstrates that the black carbon emitted during fires in the Amazon Basin contributes to the melting of tropical glaciers in the Andes. It finds that, in 2010, runoff increased by 4.5% during the peak fire season.

Modeling peat- and forestland conversion by oil palm smallholders in Indonesian Borneo (2019)
This paper looks at who is responsible for the expansion of palm oil plantations in Indonesian Borneo. It finds that independent smallholders are increasingly converting peatland due to the rising scarcity of suitable land on ordinary soil, and that the smallholders undertaking these damaging activities are likely to belong to Indigenous groups rather than be experienced oil palm farmers.

A human-driven decline in global burned area (2017)
This paper shows that global burned area declined by around 25% over the past 18 years, largely in grasslands and savannas, because of the expansion of agriculture into these areas.

Reserves Protect against Deforestation Fires in the Amazon (2009)
This paper looks at the effectiveness of reserves designed to conserve forests and biodiversity in also avoiding wildfires. It concludes that reserves clearly prevent deforestation fires, but the extent depends on the level of protection afforded to the reserve in question.


Deforestation reduces rainfall and agricultural revenues in the Brazilian Amazon (2021)

This paper investigates the relationship between deforestation and rainfall at different geographical scales across the Southern Brazilian Amazon (SBA). It finds that once forest losses pass 55-60%, rainfall plunges. This is driving up to USD 1 billion in lost farm income a year. As a result of deforestation and less rainfall, Brazil may have passed a threshold at which further Amazon deforestation translates into direct economic damage. 

Challenges to the Adaptation of Double Cropping Agricultural Systems in Brazil under Changes in Climate and Land Cover (2020)

This paper evaluates adaptation measures to maintain soy and corn yields in two climate scenarios that differ in the extent of Amazonia and Cerrado deforestation levels. Results showed a decrease in corn yield due to a delay to sowing dates and rainfall reduction during the growing season. Adaptation was ineffective in maintaining revenues in all the study regions in a scenario with high deforestation levels.

Future yields of double-cropping systems in the Southern Amazon, Brazil, under climate change and technological development (2020)
This study assesses the impact of climate change and technological development on double-cropping systems in the Southern Amazon up to the year 2040. It finds that climate change will negatively affect second season crops (corn) in the region. Technological development is likely to offset the negative effects of climate change. But the viability of double-cropping systems remains uncertain. Expanding production northward will lead to irreversible damages to the forest with negative impacts on agriculture that have not yet been seen.

Brazilian maize yields negatively affected by climate after land clearing (2020)

This paper models how different agricultural land-use scenarios could affect local climatic conditions in the Brazilian Cerrado. Researchers find that altered weather, as a result of land-use change, reduces maize yields in all scenarios, but soy yields are not notably altered. 

Climate risks to Amazon agriculture suggest a rationale to conserve local ecosystems (2019)

This paper explores a nascent area of research into the links between deforestation, climatic change and food security in the Southern Amazonia region of Brazil. Through modelling, the authors find that deforestation linked climate change may lead to decreasing crop yields with possible implications for food security. 


Carbon loss from forest degradation exceeds that from deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon (2021)

This paper shows that forest degradation in the Amazon led to more carbon being released by the rainforest than it stored over the last decade. Degradation is linked to deforestation, but it is also caused by tree-felling and forest fires.

Large carbon sink potential of secondary forests in the Brazilian Amazon to mitigate climate change (2021)

This paper finds a link between slower tree-growth and land previously damaged by fire. It finds that disturbances, such as fire and repeated deforestation prior to regrowth, reduced the regrowth rate by 20-55% across different areas of the Amazon. It also finds that preservation of secondary forests can contribute to 5.5% of Brazil’s net emissions reduction targets.

Estimating the multi-decadal carbon deficit of burned Amazonian forests (2020)

This paper quantifies net-CO2 emissions from Amazon forest fires. Over the time period, emissions were equivalent to 126.1 Mg CO2 ha−1 of which 73% (92.4 Mg CO2 ha−1) resulted from mortality and decomposition. These emissions were only partially offset by forest growth.

Spatially-explicit footprints of agricultural commodities: Mapping carbon emissions embodied in Brazil’s soy exports (2020)
This is the first study providing detailed estimates of greenhouse gas emissions across the entire soy producing agribusiness sector in Brazil. It finds that soy exported from some municipalities in Brazil’s Cerrado contribute 200 times more total GHG emissions than soy coming from other parts of the country. China was responsible for 51% of associated carbon dioxide emissions and the European Union responsible for about 30%.

Climate Change Increases the Risk of Wildfires (2020)
Literature review of studies published since 2013 up to 2020 strengthen the evidence that climate change increases the frequency and/or severity of fire weather in many regions around the world.

Carbon emissions from agricultural expansion and intensification in the Chaco (2016)

This paper investigates how land-use change over 30 years in the Chaco affected carbon budgets. It finds that between between 1985 and 2013, 20% of all forest was replaced by croplands (38.9%) or grazing lands (61.1%). This led to a rise in emissions to 824 Tg C between 1985 and 2013, and 46.2 Tg C for 2013 alone.

The critical importance of considering fire in REDD+ programs (2012)

This paper looks at how forest fires can undermine programmes to reduce emissions from deforestation (known as REDD+) by compromising the permanence of the carbon that trees are meant to store, while also threatening biodiversity and poverty relief.

Simulating fire regimes in the Amazon in response to climate change and deforestation (2011)

This paper looks at how climate change and deforestation will affect fires in the Amazon, and how this will affect carbon emissions. It finds that forest fires may increase substantially across southern and southwestern Amazon, especially along the highways slated for paving and in agricultural zones.


The Limits of Livability – The emerging threat of smoke impacts on health from forest fires and climate change (2021)

This 2021 report by the Global Climate and Health Alliance finds that bigger, more frequent forest fires are having increased and not yet well-studied health impacts. It includes case studies from Australia, Brazil and Canada.

Wildfire smoke exposure under climate change: impact on respiratory health of affected communities (2019)

This paper looks at the current literature on respiratory health and wildfire smoke exposure, including anticipated future impacts under a changing climate. It finds that the respiratory health impacts of wildfire smoke is likely to grow in the future.

Agricultural Fires and Health at Birth (2019)

This paper looks at how unborn babies are affected by exposure to wildfire smoke. It finds that late-pregnancy smoke exposure decreases birth weight, gestational length and in utero survival.

Wildfire Smoke Exposure and Human Health: Significant Gaps in Research for a Growing Public Health Issue (2017)

This literature review of wildfire smoke effects on population health highlights the gaps in the research. It particularly focuses on long-term health effects of wildfire smoke, recovery following wildfire smoke exposure, and health consequences of exposure in children.

A systematic review of the physical health impacts from non-occupational exposure to wildfire smoke (2015)

This literature review, published in 2015, looks at the impacts of wildfire smoke exposure on human health. It finds that the majority of studies found that wildfire smoke was associated with increased risk of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, but that more studies on mortality and cardiovascular morbidity were needed. This 2016 paper offers a similar literature review.


Emerging threats linking tropical deforestation and the COVID-19 pandemic (2020)
This paper presents a conceptual framework linking tropical deforestation and the COVID-19 pandemic. It finds that forest fires could aggravate the health risks of COVID-19. Pandemics can become a new indirect driver of tropical deforestation. This deforestation will also increase the risks of emerging zoonotic diseases.

Can atmospheric pollution be considered a co-factor in extremely high level of SARS-CoV-2 lethality in Northern Italy? (2020)

This paper does not deal with wildfires specifically, but looks at the link between coronavirus mortality and air pollution in Italy. It finds that people living in an area with high levels of pollutants are more prone to develop chronic respiratory conditions. There are also two pre-prints looking at the links between air pollution and COVID-19 in England and the US, and another published study looking at the links in China.


Public health impacts of the severe haze in Equatorial Asia in September–October 2015 (2016)

This 2016 paper estimates that a haze in 2015, the result of fires across Indonesian Borneo, resulted in 100,300 excess deaths across Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

The economic cost of adverse health effects from wildfire-smoke exposure: a review (2010)

This 2010 literature review synthesises studies on the economic impacts of ill health relating to wildfire smoke. It concludes that these costs should be an important part of wildfire management policy, but that there is still limited understanding of the nature of such costs.

The economic cost of the use of fire in the Amazon (2004)

This 2004 study examines the overall cost of using fire for agriculture in the Amazon. While fire can enable farmers to clear land cheaply, uncontrolled burning generates losses. Overall, it finds that Amazonian fires cost around 0.2% of the region’s GDP between 1996 and 1999.


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports are also a valuable repository of information and papers on fires as they relate to climate change, particularly the following segments:

Chapter 3 of the IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels looks at the relationship between anthropogenic climate change and wildfires as global temperatures rise. These are distinct to intentionally set fires in tropical rainforests. 

Chapter 2 of the IPCC Special Report on climate change and land includes, among other things, a box on fire and climate change. The Summary for Policymakers provides a useful map to where else fire appears throughout the report.

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) report on biodiversity, particularly Chapter 2.1, has some useful information on fires and the role of logging and deforestation in the decline of nature.


Tropical Forest Fires Watch (Simplified Mandarin Chinese /中文 )
The entire content of this website as a downloadable PDF report in simplified Mandarin Chinese.

Tropical Forest Fires Watch (Spanish/Español)
The entire content of this website as a downloadable PDF report in Spanish.