Two-thirds of world’s original tropical rainforest cover degraded or destroyed by people, report finds

Researchers found that the total forest loss between 2002 and 2019 was larger than the size of France

Louise Boyle
Senior Climate Correspondent, New York
Monday 08 March 2021 17:31 GMT
Restoring Hawaii's dryland tropical forests

Two-thirds of the world’s original tropical rainforest cover has been degraded or destroyed by people, according to new analysis.

Some 34 per cent of the world’s original old-growth tropical rainforests have been destroyed, and another 30 per cent degraded according to the Rainforest Foundation Norway analysis, Reuters reported. The forests were being razed for logging and land conversion, largely for agriculture.

More than half of the destruction since 2002 has been in the Amazon region of South America and neighboring rainforests. Southeast Asian islands, mostly in Indonesia, was ranked second in forest destruction since 2002. Destruction in Central Africa was third, mostly in the Congo River basin, due to farming and logging.

Researchers found that the total forest loss between 2002 and 2019 was larger than the size of France.

The report provides an alarming update on the state of one of the world’s most valuable natural buffers in the climate crisis.

The forest loss is also adding to the emissions driving global heating as the dense tropical forest vegetation represents the largest living reservoir of carbon.

The author of the report, Anders Krogh, told Reuters that there was a “terrifying cycle” of rainforest destruction adding to climate change which then makes it more difficult for remaining forests to survive.

Separate research conducted by the World Resources Institute’s Global Forest Review notes that 2020 will likely see record levels of tropical primary forest loss.

“In critical countries such as Brazil and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, forest loss does not appear to be slowing, and places such as Colombia and Indonesia may see a slight increase after trending downward in 2019,” the review states.

Brazil’s national space research agency, INPE, reported that Amazon rainforest was decimated by deforestation in 2020, soaring to a 12-year high to 11,088 square kilometers (2.7 million acres).

The destruction has soared since President Jair Bolsonaro took office and weakened environmental enforcement. Forests are being chopped down to make way for crops and cattle ranching.

Although the trend is concerning, the Amazon along with others in the region, presents the best hope of conserving the rainforest, Mr Krogh told Reuters, as they account for nearly three-quarters of the tropical forests still intact.

Reuters contributed to this report

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