published on 28 June 2018 in ecosystems
Tropical forests, loss of tree cover is advancing
Last year, 2017, was a bad year for tropical forests. Indeed, a tree cover loss equal to 15.8 million hectares, an area the size of Bangladesh, was recorded. After 2016, 2017 was the worst year in terms of tropical tree cover loss. The rate at which trees are lost is truly worrying: every minute on our planet we lose an area of forest equivalent to 40 football fields. This is the picture that emerges from new data from the University of Maryland, published on Global Forest Watch, an open source web application set up to monitor global forests almost in real time. Of the 10 worst hit countries, Brazil comes first, followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Bolivia and Colombia, Paraguay, Mozambique and the Ivory Coast.
In 2017, natural disasters such as fires, tropical storms and hurricanes played a decisive role in the loss of trees, even though forests are disappearing prevalently to make space for cultivation of soya, palm oil and other products. In many cases, moreover, forests are illegally cleared to take possession of the land.
It must be remembered that systematic deforestation on this scale, besides damaging biodiversity and the rights and livelihoods of local communities, poses a problem for the global climate. The latest research on the subject in fact show that forests are even more important for curbing climate change than was thought in the past. Besides capturing and storing carbon, they influence wind speed, rainfall models and the chemistry of the atmosphere. In short, deforestation is turning our world into a warmer and drier place.