Forest fires believed to be started by humans have caused mass destruction to parts of Bolivia, including a portion of the Amazon so far this year, according to Reuters.
Around 150,000 hectares (579 square miles) of land has been burned in the Amazon and Chaco regions of Bolivia in 2021, Bolivian authorities said. The Amazon, a vast forest that covers parts of Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia and Guiana among other South American countries, is an important part of the world's fight against climate change.
The forest itself is home to a rich population of indigenous communities and boasts unique wildlife, including the jaguar and caiman. It also serves as one of the globe's primary means for carbon capture.
In recent years, the Amazon has been subject to deforestation efforts from humans, wildfires, and reduced rainfall in the dry seasons due to climate change. These factors have decreased the rainforest's ability to pull carbon from the atmosphere.
A study released in mid-July found that parts of the Amazon that were once "carbon sinks" are now emitting more carbon dioxide than they absorb.
Juan Carlos Calvimontes, the Bolivian vice minister of Civil Defense, said the vast majority of the fires in the country appear to be caused by man.
"The origin of the fires, almost 90 percent, are being set, they are not starting by themselves," he said, according to Reuters.
Calvimontes vowed to make those responsible for the blazes pay the costs associated with putting them out.
"The sad thing is that every time some arsonist sets a fire, it is destroying nature, a habitat where thousands of species feed and live," Jerjes Suárez, a local veterinarian, told Reuters.