Africa: Box – Global rainforest loss declines in 2021, but outlook bleak


Kuala Lumpur – Brazil has seen the greatest forest loss to commercial land clearing, followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo, while palm oil giants Indonesia and Malaysia have made progress in tackling the deforestation

Losses of the world’s rainforests remained high in 2021, despite a decrease from 2020, with wet weather limiting fires, analysts said on Thursday, urging governments to act quickly to meet the pledge of about 140 countries to end deforestation this decade.

The trend of primary forest loss has been steady in recent years, according to data from the University of Maryland and Global Forest Watch (GFW), a tree cover monitoring service run by the World Resources Institute based in Washington.

Although the tropics lost 11% less forest in 2021 than the previous year, this came after a 12% increase in 2020 that was mainly due to higher fire-related losses, researchers said.

Here are some facts about forests and forest loss in 2021:

– Primary tropical forests are defined as areas of natural, mature, humid tropical forest cover that have not been cleared and replanted in recent history.

– The felling of rainforests has major implications for global climate change targets, as trees absorb around a third of the global warming carbon emissions produced worldwide.

– Forests also provide food and livelihoods to local communities, provide critical habitat for wildlife, support rainfall and help combat flooding and rising temperatures.

– Globally, tropical primary forest losses amounted to 3.75 million hectares (9.3 million acres) in 2021, a rate equal to 10 football pitches per minute.

– The top five countries for rainforest loss were Brazil with 1.55 million hectares, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with 499,000 hectares, Bolivia with 291,000 hectares, Indonesia with 203,000 hectares and Peru with 154,000 hectares.

– The loss of rainforests in 2021 resulted in 2.5 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, equivalent to India’s annual fossil fuel emissions.

– More than 40% of last year’s primary forest loss occurred in Brazil, which is home to about a third of the world’s remaining primary tropical rainforests.

– Many new hotspots of primary forest loss in the western Brazilian Amazon have seen large-scale clearing – potentially creating pasture for livestock – along existing roads.

– Bolivia has suffered record losses of primary forest, more than a third of it due to fires, which are usually started by people wanting to clear land to grow soybeans or graze cattle.

– Losses in the DRC were due to the expansion of small-scale agriculture and wood harvesting to meet energy demand.

– In Southeast Asia, primary forest losses in Indonesia declined for the fifth consecutive year in 2021, down 25% from 2020. These declines are largely due to a combined effort by business and industry. government to fight deforestation after the forest fires in 2015.

– Malaysia, which also experienced its fifth year of deforestation, has lost almost a fifth of its primary forest since 2001 and up to a third since the 1970s. Indonesia and Malaysia are the world’s two largest producers of palm oil, the oil palm being mainly cultivated in plantations located in forest zones.

– Tree cover loss in northern boreal forests was the highest on record in 2021, increasing 30% from 2020.

– Russia has had its worst fire season in two decades, with more than 6.5 million hectares of forest cover lost in 2021. Hotter and drier weather fueled by climate change has created conditions conducive to fires.

Sources: University of Maryland and Global Forest Watch

(Reporting by Michael Taylor @MickSTaylor; Editing by Megan Rowling. The Thomson Reuters Foundation is the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters and covers the lives of people around the world struggling to live freely or fairly. Visit org)


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