Brazil registered the highest number of fires in the Amazon for the month of May since 2004, and the highest ever for the Cerrado savanna region last month, according to official figures released Wednesday.
Fueling fears over the future of the world's biggest rainforest, the national space agency, INPE, said satellite data showed a total of 2,287 fires in the Brazilian Amazon basin in May, an increase of 96 percent from May 2021.
It is the second-highest number on record for the month, after 2004, when there were 3,131.
In the Cerrado, a biodiverse tropical savanna to the south of the Amazon, there were 3,578 fires, according to INPE figures, an increase of 35 percent from May 2021.
It was the highest figure for May in the region since records began in June 1998.
Environmentalists called the numbers further evidence of a surge in fires and deforestation under far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.
"These numbers are not a fluke data point, they are part of a constant upward trend in environmental destruction in the past three years — the result of an intentional government policy," the executive director of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Brazil office, Mauricio Voivodic, told reporters.
"Science is being ignored, and the future will make Brazil pay a high price for it."
Experts say fires in the Amazon, a key buffer against climate change, are nearly all set intentionally to clear land for activities such as farming and ranching.
May typically sees fewer fires than the peak of the dry season in August and September. The high numbers early in the year raised fears 2022 could be particularly destructive.
Bolsonaro, who is closely allied with Brazil's powerful agribusiness sector, has faced international criticism over a sharp increase in deforestation in the Amazon and other ecosystems on his watch.
Since he took office in 2019, average annual deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has increased by 75 percent from the previous decade, according to official figures.
There is also alarm over the Atlantic Forest on Brazil's eastern coast, where deforestation increased by 66 percent last year, according to a report last week by environmental group SOS Mata Atlântica.