Global Forest Watch (GFW) have released a frightening report detailing how 3.8 million hectares of tropical primary forest was lost in 2019 – the equivalent of a football pitch every six seconds.
And if you think that number is alarming, it’s not even the full story; the tropical forest destruction makes up just a third of all tree cover which was lost in 2019, 11.9 million hectares.
On those figures (11.9 million hectares), we’re actually losing a football pitch sized area of trees every two seconds. Or, in a 24-hour period, 43,200 football field sized plots of trees are being destroyed.
Primary forest are referred to as the ‘densest, wildest and most ecologically significant forests’ and are crucial for carbon storage and biodiversity.
The GFW study uses data collected by the University of Maryland. It shows that the areas worst affected by tropical forest destruction to be South America, Africa and Southeast Asia.
According to the GFW researchers, once tropical primary forest is destroyed, ‘it can take decades or even millennia to grow back.”
The loss of primary forest in 2019 was less than in 2016 and 2017, but is still the third-highest since the start of this millennium.
It should also be noted that a large portion of Australia’s huge fires of 2019 and 2020 were not included in the stats regarding tropical forest destruction as much of the country falls below the tropical region.
The worse affected country in 2019 was Brazil, where more than 1.3 million hectares were destroyed. President Jair Bolsonaro has faced criticism from around the world for the huge amount of deforestation that has taken place under his watch. Severe tree loss in 2019 also occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as Indonesia, Bolivia, Peru, Malaysia and Colombia.
There were at least a few downwards trends, including the west African nations of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, who reduced primary forest loss by more than 50% between 2018 and 2019.
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Image credit : Martin Valigursky