Forest loss is a major contributor to climate change, and it is continuing at a rapid pace. The tropics lost about 30 million acres of tree cover in 2019, a third of which was within humid tropical primary forests, which are especially important for biodiversity and carbon storage. To put that loss in a human-scale perspective, it is the equivalent of losing a football field of primary forest every six seconds for the entire year.
The losses last year were 2.8% higher than in the previous year, and these losses have continued over the past 20 years despite worldwide efforts to halt deforestation.
Brazil single-handedly accounted for over a third of all global loss of humid tropical primary forests. Bolivia experienced record-breaking tree cover loss due to fires. The losses in its forests were 80% greater than in any previous year. The fires were often started by people who were trying to clear land for agriculture but had the fires go out of control. Several countries in Africa’s Congo Basin also experienced sustained or worsening forest loss.
Indonesia, often the focus of the world’s attention for its deforestation activities, actually saw a 5% reduction in primary forest loss in 2019. It was the third year in a row for lower losses. The now-permanent moratorium on clearing forests for oil palm plantations and logging seems to be working.
Going forward, the coronavirus pandemic poses additional threats to the world’s forests in the near future. There may be a tendency to sacrifice forests in pursuit of economic recovery, which will only lead to future complications for the health and livelihoods of millions of people around the world.
Photo, posted February 7, 2011, courtesy of Chad Skeers via Flickr.