Last update: November 22nd, 2019 at 11:00 am
Fire season was in full swing in western South Africa in late June, 2015. Red hotspots marked dozens of actively burning fires in South African when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this true-color image on June 23. Additional fires can be seen in Swaziland, which lies under an arc of smoke, as well as Mozambique in the far northeast section of the image.
The location, widespread nature, and number of fires suggest that these fires were deliberately set to manage land. Farmers often use fire to return nutrients to the soil, to clear the ground of unwanted plants, and to freshen pasturelands. While fire helps enhance crops and grasses for pasture, the fires also produce smoke that degrades air quality.
In addition to pollution produced by agricultural fires is the possibility of deforestation, erosion, nutrient loss, and possible extinction of species. If a particular area is the only one that holds a particular species, slashing and burning could result in extinction for that species.