Humans have so far degraded or destroyed roughly two-thirds of the world’s cover of original tropical rainforest, new data has revealed
The loss of this rainforest cover is also a major contributor of emissions that contribute to climate-warming, with the dense tropical forest vegetation of the Earth representing the largest living reservoir of carbon on the planet.
Logging and land conversion, which is done mainly for agriculture, have wiped out 34% of the original old-growth tropical rainforests in the world, and degraded another 30%, which leaves them more vulnerable to fire and future rainforest destruction, according to an analysis by the non-profit called Rainforest Foundation Norway.
This comes after the Australian government has now officially acknowledged the extinction of 13 more endemic species, which includes 12 species of mammal, as well as the first reptile known to have been lost since Australia was colonised by Europe.
Over half of the destruction of forest cover since 2002 has been taken place within South America’s Amazon, as well as bordering rainforests.
As more of the World’s rainforest cover is destroyed, there is a higher potential for the damaging effects of climate change, which in turn makes it more difficult for the remaining rainforests to survive, said the author of the report, Anders Krogh, who is a tropical forest researcher.
“It’s a terrifying cycle,” said Krogh. The total lost between just the years of 2002 and 2019 had been larger than the area of France, he found in his report.
The rate of loss that took place in 2019 had roughly matched the annual level of destruction over the previous 20 years, with a football-field’s worth of forest vanishing from existence every 6 seconds, according to another recent report conducted by the World Resources Institute.
The Brazilian Amazon rainforest has been under intense pressure within recent decades, as an agricultural boom has driven many farmers and land speculators in Brazil to torch plots of land for soybeans and beef, as well as other crops. That trend has worsened since 2019, when the right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro took office and began weakening the nation’s environmental enforcement.
But the Amazon rainforest also represents the best hope for preserving what amount of rainforest remains. The Amazon and its neighbour forests, the Orinoco and the Andean rainforest, which account for 73.5% of the planet’s tropical forests still intact, according to the report from Krogh.
This comes after a hunt is currently under way for one of the first people in the United Kingdom believed to have become infected with a Brazilian variant of COVID-19 that has been described as “variant of concern”.
This new report “reinforces that Brazil must take care of the forest,” said Ane Alencar, who is a geographer who works with the Amazon Environmental Research Institute and was not involved in the work. “Brazil has the biggest chunk of tropical forest in the world and is also losing the most.”
Southeast Asian islands, most of which belong to Indonesia, collectively rank second in terms of rainforest destruction since the year 2002, with much of those forests having been cleared for the production of palm oil.
Central Africa ranks third in the world, with most of the destruction having centred around the Congo River basin, which is due to both traditional and commercial farming as well as logging practices.