In a drier Amazon, Indigenous people recalibrate their relationship with fire

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For thousands of years, Indigenous people in the Brazilian Amazon have used fire in their farming practices to preserve natural resources and regenerate the soil. But a rapidly changing climate and a drier forest have made these fires more difficult to control. In Xingu Indigenous Park, native people and researchers are developing alternative management methods to prevent uncontrolled burning, including removal of dry leaves and the use of less flammable plants. Drought has reduced the yield of traditional Indigenous crops like sweet potatoes and peanuts. Since the beginning of time, Indigenous peoples have used signals from nature to guide their way of life. Their calendar is structured by the rhythm of plant growth or rains, which help them choose the best time to plant their crops. But things have changed in recent years. “The climate has totally changed,” says Yakunã Ikpeng, chief of the Arayo village inside Brazil’s Xingu Indigenous Park. “The rains have been coming late and ending before the normal time. The ipê-amarelo” — Handroanthus chrysotrichus , or golden trumpet tree — “is dropping its flowers later and the cicadas are also singing late.” Yakunã Ikpeng and his people have noticed that the world’s largest tropical forest […]

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