Tropical forests around the world were destroyed at an increasing rate in 2020 compared to the previous year, despite the global economic downturn caused by the epidemic, reducing the demand for some of the commodities that led to deforestation in the past.
Worldwide, the loss of old-growth primary tropical forests, which play a critical role in keeping carbon out of the atmosphere and in preserving biodiversity, By 12 percent in 2020 compared to 2019, According to the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based research group that provides annual reports on the topic.
Overall, more than 10 million acres of primary tropical forests were lost in 2020, an area roughly the size of Switzerland. The Institute analysis He said the loss of that large area added more than two and a half billion metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, or about twice what cars in the United States throw into the air each year.
“We are still losing primary forests at an unacceptable rate,” said Rod Taylor, global director of the institute’s forestry program. “A 12 percent year-on-year increase is a very significant increase when the trend is on the way down.”
Once again, Brazil led the world in forest loss by a wide margin, like The pro-development policies of the country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, Led to the continuation of the clear cut on a large scale. Increased forest losses have also been reported in Cameroon in West Africa. In Colombia, losses rose again last year after a promising decline in 2019.
Indonesia and Malaysia were rare bright spots, with forest loss declining from 2019. For Indonesia, 2020 was the fourth consecutive year of declines, a sign of the government’s success in its efforts to halt deforestation after a terrible fire season in 2015.
The institute said, as in previous years, most of the loss of forests in the tropics was driven by agriculture, either the production of commodities such as palm oil and cocoa or subsistence efforts by small farmers. Either way, forests are usually cleared and the resulting debris is burned to prepare the fields. Often times these fires can get out of control, leading to increased forest loss, and warming and drought caused by climate change can only make the situation worse.
Most of the forest loss in Brazil has occurred in the Amazon rainforest, as it has for years. But this year, the Pantanal, a huge wetland region in the southern part of the country, which also covers parts of Bolivia and Paraguay, has contributed significantly to the losses. The region has experienced a historical drought, exacerbated by climate change Severe fire season, With forests lost 16 times in 2020 compared to the previous year.
Francis Seymour, a senior fellow at the institute, said what happened in the Pantanal was just one example of the increasing role of global warming in forest loss. “The most ominous sign from the 2020 data is the number of cases in which forests themselves have fallen victim to climate change,” she said. “Nature has been whispering to us about this danger for a long time, but now it’s crying out.”
last year, Anecdotal reports from Brazil and other countries He noted that deforestation is on the rise due to the epidemic, as the health crisis has hampered governments’ efforts to enforce a ban on logging, and workers who have lost their jobs due to the downturn have migrated from cities to rural areas for farming. But Mr. Taylor said the analysis showed “no clear systematic shift” in forest loss as a result of this epidemic.
If anything, the crisis and the resulting global economic downturn should have reduced total forest loss, with lower demand and prices for palm oil and other staples. While lower demand may have helped improve the situation in Indonesia and a few other countries, Ms. Seymour said that globally, “it was surprising that in the year the global economy contracted somewhere between 3 and 4 per cent, they increased Initial forest losses by 12 percent. “
She said the world has yet to see the largest impact on forests from the epidemic, “which is likely to play its role as economies start to recover.”
The concern, she said, is that governments facing deficits “will tend to reduce the budgets of enforcement agencies and authorize new investment projects that could lead to more forest loss.” “Unless we offer alternatives, the government will likely try to restart its economies on the backs of forests.”
The report data was provided by the scientists at Global land analysis and discovery A lab at the University of Maryland, who have devised methods for analyzing satellite imagery to determine forest cover. The World Resources Institute refers to their findings as “loss of forest cover” rather than “deforestation” because the analysis includes trees lost from farms and does not distinguish between trees lost due to human activities and those lost to natural causes.