The researchers warn that climate change is making it difficult to reverse the losses.
About 111,000 square kilometers of wood floors were lost in the tropics in 2021. 37,500 square kilometers of this was from old-growth natural forests, according to research from Global Forest Watch, the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the University of Maryland.
There are ten football fields per minute. It happens over the course of a year, says Rod Taylor, who heads WRI’s Forest Conservation and Restoration Program.
Researchers estimate that the loss of tropical natural forests in 2021 resulted in the release of 2.5 gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is equivalent to the annual emissions of fossil fuels from India.
Indonesia bright spot
More than 40 percent of all tropical natural forests lost last year were in Brazil, where about 15,000 square kilometers were felled or smoked. In the Congo, nearly 5,000 square kilometers were lost, while in Bolivia, 3,000 square kilometers were lost.
– says Climate and Environment Minister Espin Barth Eide (Labour) in press release.
He points to one bright spot, Indonesia, which has significantly reduced forest losses for the fifth year in a row. There, deforestation is now at its lowest level in 20 years.
Barth Eddy believes this shows that Indonesia’s long-term reform work is paying off.
trend may reverse
– The results that Indonesia has achieved in recent years are impressive, and they clearly show that the policy is working, he says.
However, the World Resources Institute warns that the trend may reverse in 2022. This is partly due to the end of a temporary ban on new palm oil plantations, along with the highest palm oil prices in 40 years.
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Rainforests disappear mainly to facilitate agricultural or pastoral activities. The amount of rainforest lost in 2021 was 11 percent less than the previous year, but still higher than that still sustainable.
Forest fires generate forest fires
Also at our latitudes, large amounts of forest were lost. The amount of wood cover loss in areas of the taiga, or boreal coniferous forest, is the highest in two years. The intense wildfire season resulted in Russia losing 65,000 square kilometers of forest in 2021, the highest number ever.
Researchers warn that wildfires may soon cause a self-reinforcing cycle — where fires increase greenhouse gas emissions, which in turn increase temperatures and thus the risk of new wildfires.
During the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November, 141 heads of state pledged to “stop and reverse forest loss by 2030”. Since most of the deforestation in 2021 occurred even before the agreement was signed, the WRI believes the latest numbers can be considered a kind of baseline for assessing compliance.
The Amazon is near the tipping point
At the same time, the researchers stress that the amount of natural loss of forests must steadily decline rapidly each year until 2030 in order to achieve these goals.
Climate change itself makes it difficult to preserve the forest we have, says Frances Seymour of WRI.
Among other things, research recently showed that the Amazon may be closer to the so-called tipping point than previously thought. The tipping point indicates that the forest will be irretrievably lost, and it will become a savannah environment. This process can release large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
It takes more work
Brazil accounts for a third of the world’s remaining natural tropical rainforests, but the harvest rate has increased in recent years. Forest losses not caused by wildfires increased by 9% in 2021 compared to the previous year. In the far western Amazon, the pace increased by more than 25 percent.
– We already knew what a catastrophe such deforestation is for the climate. It’s also a disaster for biodiversity, for indigenous people, and for local communities, Seymour says.
She realizes that more work is needed.
It is clear that we are not doing enough to provide incentives for those who have the power to stop the loss of forests, so that we can protect the remaining tropical forests.
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