The fires are largely responsible for the pollution related to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. A study shows that the Amazon rainforest is capable of absorbing 26,000 tons of particulate matter per year and that indigenous territories contribute 27% of this total. Preserving them prevents 15 million new cases of illness every year.
“Conserving indigenous territories is a public health issue,” says Paula Prist, lead author of the study published in the journal Communications Earth & Environment and a researcher at the Ecohealth Alliance, an NGO that works with environmental preservation and the prevention of pandemics. Based on the analysis of data from the Legal Amazon: A region that occupies almost half of Brazil’s territory, it covers nine states and has an area greater than that of the Amazonian biome. between 2010 and 2019, the article shows that the forest and indigenous territories: Federal Territories recognized and delimited by the federal government for the maintenance of the indigenous way of life and culture throughout the country. (ITs) absorb pollutants from fires and protect the health of the population, generating savings of US$2 billion for the public system.
During the period analyzed, the forest was able to absorb 26,000 tons per year of the main pollutant related to respiratory diseases, particulate matter. The ITs were responsible for the absorption of 27% of this total, despite occupying only 22% of the Amazon territory.
According to Prist, this higher percentage of absorption is probably due to the service that indigenous peoples provide in keeping the forest standing. A study published in March of 2022 showed that, in the period from 2005 to 2012, the average rate of loss of native vegetation: All the flora that naturally occupies the different biomes of the country according to their soil types, climate, biodiversity and water availability.in the indigenous territories of the Amazon was 17 times lower than in unprotected areas. A survey conducted by the MapBiomas network in April of 2022 also showed that, in the last 30 years, ITs throughout Brazil have lost 1% of their native vegetation, while private areas have lost 20.6%.
By protecting the forest, they reduce carbon emissions and help with the absorption of pollutants, contributing to the prevention of diseases related to these problems (read more about the listed diseases below). “Though these indigenous territories are far from where fires occur – often in the Arc of Deforestation – they are still able to provide services and protect rural and urban populations that reside all throughout the region,” Prist highlights.
The Arc of Deforestation, where the agricultural frontier is advancing upon the southern and eastern edges of the forest, is precisely the region that least absorbs pollutants from the fires in the Amazon. It is also there that the Kayabi ITs are found, in Mato Grosso, Panará, Pará and Sete de Setembro, between Rondônia and Mato Grosso – all of which presented the highest incidence of respiratory diseases out of the Amazonian ITs in the period analyzed.