Hundreds of fires, outlined in red, burn across Myanmar and India in this image acquired on February 27, 2006. Also visible are portions of Bangladesh (far left) and Thailand (far right); the Bay of Bengal dominates the lower left of the image. The grayish plumes of smoke blowing from left to right, with the prevailing winds, are readily distinguished from the brighter, white colored and clumped masses of clouds. It is highly likely that these fires have been set intentionally for agricultural purposes; fire is used to clear fields of ground cover and residual crops, as well as to add nutrients to the soil. Satellite images such as this one have been used to quantify the amount of forest cover lost in Myanmar in recent decades; researchers have estimated the loss to be about 13% from 1990-2000. Conservation International lists this region as a hotspot of biological diversity, providing habitat to nearly 7,000 endemic (found only locally) species of plants, as well as 18 threatened species of birds, 25 mammals, and 35 threatened amphibian species. The conversion of forested land for agriculture, as well as logging, mining, and draining of wetlands, have been identified as threats to biodiversity in this region.
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