• Saturday, May 28, 2022
  • Last Update : 04:24 pm

Two-thirds of tropical rainforest destroyed or degraded globally

  • Published at 07:45 pm March 8th, 2021
web-amazon-fire
File photo: A fire burns a tract of Amazon jungle as it is cleared by a farmer in Machadinho do Oeste, Rondonia state, Brazil September 2, 2019 Reuters

The forest loss is also a major contributor of climate-warming emissions

Humans have degraded or destroyed roughly two-thirds of the world's original tropical rainforest cover, new data reveals – raising alarm that a key natural buffer against climate change is quickly vanishing.

The forest loss is also a major contributor of climate-warming emissions, with the dense tropical forest vegetation representing the largest living reservoir of carbon.

Logging and land conversion, mainly for agriculture, have wiped out 34% of the world's original old-growth tropical rainforests, and degraded another 30%, leaving them more vulnerable to fire and future destruction, according to an analysis by the non-profit Rainforest Foundation Norway.

More than half of the destruction since 2002 has been in South America's Amazon and bordering rainforests.

As more rainforest is destroyed, there is more potential for climate change, which in turn makes it more difficult for remaining forests to survive, said the report's author Anders Krogh, a tropical forest researcher.

"It's a terrifying cycle," Krogh said. The total lost between just 2002 and 2019 was larger than the area of France, he found.

The rate of loss in 2019 roughly matched the annual level of destruction over the last 20 years, with a football-field's worth of forest vanishing every 6 seconds, according to another recent report by the World Resources Institute.

The Brazilian Amazon has been under intense pressure in recent decades, as an agricultural boom has driven farmers and land speculators to torch plots of land for soybeans, beef and other crops. 

That trend has worsened since 2019, when right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro took office and began weakening environmental enforcement.

But the Amazon also represents the best hope for preserving what rainforest remains. The Amazon and its neighbours – the Orinoco and the Andean rainforest – account for 73.5% of tropical forests still intact, according to Krogh.

The new report "reinforces that Brazil must take care of the forest," said Ane Alencar, a geographer with the Amazon Environmental Research Institute who was not involved in the work. "Brazil has the biggest chunk of tropical forest in the world and is also losing the most."

Southeast Asian islands, mostly belonging to Indonesia, collectively rank second in terms of forest destruction since 2002, with much of those forests cleared for palm oil plantations.

Central Africa ranks third, with most of the destruction centered around the Congo River basin, due to traditional and commercial farming as well as logging.

Forests that were defined in the report as degraded had either been partially destroyed, or destroyed and since replaced by secondary forest growth, Rainforest Foundation Norway said.

That report's definition for intact forest may be overly strict, cautioned Tasso Azevedo, coordinator of the Brazilian deforestation mapping initiative MapBiomas. 

The analysis only counts untouched regions of at least 500sqkm as intact, leaving out smaller areas that may add to the world's virgin forest cover, he said.

Krogh explained that this definition was chosen because smaller tracts are at risk of the "edge effect," where trees die faster and biodiversity is harder to maintain near the edge of the forest. A forest spanning 500sqkm can fully sustain its ecosystem, he said.

50
Facebook 50
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail