Last year there was a global loss of 3.8 million hectares of forest, according to a University of Maryland report published by Global Forest Watch of the World Resources Institute. The forests spread over an area of more than 21.1 hectares are being destroyed every minute in the world, whose area is as much as 10 football fields. That’s an 11% decrease from 2020 levels, after a 12% increase in 2019, where fires accounted for much of the year-over-year variation.
The Global Forest Watch, which is supported by the Nonprofit Institute of World Resources (WRI) and is based on forest data collected by the University of Maryland, reports that approximately 253,000 square kilometers (97,683 square miles) of forest were lost in 2021.
Over the past few years, the rate of primary forest loss in the tropics has remained unchanged. Although the tropics lost 11% less primary forests in 2021 than in 2020, this was after a 12% increase from 2019 to 2020, mainly due to increased fire-related losses.
A handful of countries, most notably Indonesia and Gabon, have seen their rates of primary forest loss decline significantly in recent years. But this was offset by high rates of deforestation in other tropical countries, such as Brazil and Bolivia.
Scientists have documented concerns that the Amazon is nearing a tipping point when climate variation transforms the area into savannah-like ecosystems. More than 140 countries at last year’s United Nations climate conference in Glasgow agreed to halt forest and rainforest loss by 2030.
37.5 million hectares are forests that existed within the primary tropical forests and were of great climatic importance. Therefore, their disappearance is of particular concern. These forests are important for carbon storage and biodiversity.
Damage to primary tropical forests is expected to lead to 250 million tonnes of carbon emissions in 2021, equivalent to annual fossil fuel emissions in India.
According to the report, these figures focused on the loss of tropical forests, as human destruction caused 96 percent of the loss of these forests, including land for agriculture and livestock. An important factor was cleaning.
According to the data, the loss of primary rainforest area has been continuing at a steady pace over the past few years. However, compared to 2020, there was a reduction in losses in these forest areas by 11 percent. At the same time, in the period from 2019 to 2020 there was an increase of 12 percent, which was caused to some extent by forest fires.
Researchers have warned of potential “feedback loops” when more fires cause more carbon emissions, which in turn contributes to rising temperatures and increasing the risk of fire.
This year’s figures come after 141 global leaders pledged at the COP summit in Glasgow last year to “stop and reverse forest loss by 2030”.
Recent studies have shown that the Amazon rainforest may be closer than previously thought to the “turning point” when it irreversibly passes into the savannah and potentially emits huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.
In Brazil, which occupies about one-third of the world’s primary tropical forests, its deforestation has accelerated in recent years.
Fire losses, which WRI says are often linked to land clearing for agriculture, rose nine percent last year from 2020. Meanwhile, in the western Brazilian Amazon, the report says key states grew by more than 25 percent from 2020 to 2021.
In particular, the western Brazilian Amazon faced an intensification of primary forest loss, in its key states from 2020 to 2021 the loss without fire increased by more than 25%. In this part of the Amazon, there are several areas of new hotspots in primary forests, ie places that have experienced statistically significant new losses in 2021.
Many new hotspots cover large-scale clearings – probably for cattle pastures – along existing roads. Some of these roads, such as the north-south BR-319 in the Amazon, are planned to be paved and improved, which has already led to increased deforestation.
“We already knew that such losses were a catastrophe for the climate. It was a catastrophe for biodiversity. It was a catastrophe for indigenous peoples and local communities,” Seymour said, noting a recent study showing that forests help cool the air and store carbon.
Indonesia’s primary forest loss rate continued to decline in 2021 for the fifth year in a row, falling 25% from 2020. Another year of decline is a cause for celebration, and it indicates that Indonesia is moving in the right direction to meet some their climate commitments. Last year, Indonesia updated its National Climate Plan (NDC) to commit to reducing emissions from the forest and land use sectors so that it becomes a clean carbon sink by 2030.
The long-term declining trend also indicates that government commitments and actions are working. A new study shows that deforestation associated with oil palm is at a minimum for 20 years.
Deforestation, peat and exploitation (NDPE) commitments now cover 83% of Indonesia’s and Malaysia’s palm oil processing facilities and more than 80% of Indonesia’s pulp and paper industry. In addition, in 2018, the Round Table on Sustainable Use of Palm Oil tightened the requirements for environmental certification to prohibit deforestation and clearing of peatlands.
Although forest loss must be reduced much faster to achieve zero deforestation targets by 2030, there is reason to hope.
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