Tropical forest loss slowed in 2023, but global threats remain, data shows | Trending Viral hub

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  • Tropical forests have shown an improvement in primary forest loss, with a decrease of 9 percent compared to 2023.
  • Brazil and Colombia saw reductions in forest loss, attributed to conservation policies and environmental initiatives.
  • Canada experienced an unprecedented increase in tree cover loss due to massive wildfires.

Tropical forest The loss slowed last year, but other indicators show the world’s forests remain under tremendous pressure, according to an analysis released Thursday by the monitoring project Global Forest Watch.

Forest destruction contributes to global momentum climate change. Because trees absorb climate-warming carbon dioxide and store it as carbon in their wood, that greenhouse gas is released when wood rots or burns.

This destruction also endangers biodiversity due to the number of plant and animal species that inhabit the forests.

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Below are key findings from Global Forest Watch’s annual forest loss data.

Amazon deforestation

A deforested area is seen on July 14, 2021 in the Amazon rainforest in Pará, Brazil. Tropical forest loss slowed last year, but other indicators show the world’s forests remain under tremendous pressure, according to an analysis published Thursday. (REUTERS/Bruno Kelly/File Photo)

TROPICAL FORESTS fared better

The loss of primary forests (those untouched by humans and sometimes known as primary forests) in the tropics decreased by 9% last year compared to 2022.

But Global Forest Watch researchers said destruction remains stubbornly high. Last year, the world lost about 37,000 square kilometers (14,000 square miles) of primary tropical forest, an area almost as large as Switzerland and larger than the US state of Maryland.

Global Forest Watch is a project of the Washington-based nonprofit research organization World Resources Institute that uses satellite imagery. Most of the data is compiled by researchers at the University of Maryland.

Decreased forest loss in Brazil and Colombia was largely offset by greater losses elsewhere, Global Forest Watch director Mikaela Weisse said at a news conference.

“The world took two steps forward and two steps back,” Weisse said.

Scientists consider primary tropical forests to be among the most precious, as their lush vegetation is the most carbon-dense. These forests are also treasures of biodiversity. The Amazon rainforest, for example, is home to at least 10% of the known species on Earth.

The loss of primary tropical forests last year caused greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to half the U.S. emissions caused by the annual burning of fossil fuels, Weisse said.

Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Bolivia topped the ranking of tropical countries with the greatest loss of primary forests. This despite the fact that destruction in Brazil fell by 36%, while President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva implemented aggressive conservation policies, particularly with regard to the Amazon, Weisse said.

Neighboring Colombia saw a 49% drop in forest loss. President Gustavo Petro made environmental preservation a key part of the peace process with the armed groups that dominate the jungle areas, Weisse said.

Forest destruction in the Democratic Republic of the Congo remained relatively stable but high, around 1,930 square miles.

Third, Bolivia experienced a record loss of primary forests for the third consecutive year, with destruction increasing by 27%. Agricultural production and fires caused most of the losses.

DEFORESTATION INCREASED

Global deforestation increased by 3.2% in 2023, according to the report.

Forest loss includes natural destruction, such as wildfires, pests, and windstorms, of forests that can grow back. Deforestation refers to people permanently converting forests to other uses, such as agriculture, and is more difficult to measure.

In 2021, more than 140 countries committed to ending deforestation by the end of the decade, a goal that requires huge declines in destruction each year, said World Resources Institute forestry director Rod Taylor.

“We are way off track and heading in the wrong direction when it comes to reducing global deforestation,” Taylor said.

Brazil, Indonesia and Bolivia led deforestation, followed closely by the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

FOREST FIRES IN CANADA OFF THE GRAPHICS

Tree cover loss increased by 24% in all forests worldwide in 2022, mainly due to huge wildfires in Canada.

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Canada’s forest loss of more than 80,000 square kilometers (30,900 square miles) was three times greater than any year on record, offsetting a decline in forest loss in the rest of the world.

“That’s one of the biggest anomalies on record,” said Matt Hansen, a researcher at the University of Maryland.

While deforestation in the tropics is a driver of human-caused climate change, the fires in Canada are rather a symptom of global warming, leading to hotter, drier conditions that fuel larger fires.

“It’s a big deal and it’s a warning about climate impacts,” Hansen said.

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