Quantcast
Popular
Aerial view of the Amazon Rainforest, near Manaus, the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas. Neil Palmer, CIAT / CC BY 2.0

Tropical Forests Lost 40 Football Fields of Tree Cover Per Minute in 2017

New University of Maryland data published by Global Forest Watch (GFW) Wednesday revealed 2017 as the second-worst year on record for tropical tree cover loss, a GFW blog announced.

Tropical tree cover decreased by an area the size of Bangladesh—a total of 39 million acres. That amounts to 40 football fields worth of trees cut every minute of last year in a devastating blow to biodiversity and the global climate.


Despite conservation efforts, 2017 was only slightly less devastating for tropical rainforests than 2016, according to the World Resources Institute (WRI), which runs GFW.

"This is truly an urgent issue that should be getting more attention," WRI senior fellow Frances Seymour told The Guardian. "We are trying to put out a house fire with a teaspoon."

Part of the loss is due to a nasty climate change feedback loop. Forests are an important carbon sink, and deforestation contributes as much carbon dioxide to the atmosphere as the U.S., according the The Guardian. This drives global warming that makes wildfires and storms more common and severe, partly contributing to more tree cover loss. For example, 2017's devastating hurricanes cost the island of Dominica 32 percent of its tree cover and Puerto Rico 10 percent, according to GFW.

But most of last year's loss was more directly human caused.

"The main reason tropical forests are disappearing is not a mystery—vast areas continue to be cleared for soy, beef, palm oil, timber, and other globally traded commodities," Seymour told The Guardian.

Brazil had the dubious honor of leading the world's countries in 2017 tree cover loss, mostly due to fires set to clear land. Brazil saw an important decline in tree cover loss beginning in 2005, but it spiked again to the highest it's ever been in 2016 and only fell slightly this year. This is partly due to political instability, lack of enforcement and a government that has rolled back environmental protections, according to GFW.

"What we are seeing today is the backlash," Carlos Nobre at the University of São Paulo, Brazil told The Guardian.

"Global warming makes much hotter temperatures, making forests more vulnerable to human-set fires and natural-caused fires," Nobre added.

Also in the Amazonian region, Colombia saw a 46 percent spike in tree cover loss after the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were pushed out of forested areas, leading aspiring farmers and miners to race to clear and develop the previously inaccessible land.

In Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) broke its record for tree cover loss in 2017, mostly due to agriculture, logging and charcoal production.

The one bright spot was Indonesia, which saw an overall decline in tree cover lost and a 60 percent drop in the loss of primary forest. Part of this is due to a national moratorium on peat drainage that went into effect in 2016, GFW said.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Animals
A reindeer in Sweden. Alexandre Buisse (Nattfodd) / GNU Free Documentation License

Reindeer Numbers Have Fallen by More than Half in 2 Decades

It's a sad Christmas for the world's reindeer—the antlered Arctic grazers associated with all things Santa Claus. Their numbers have fallen by more than half in the past 20 years, and climate change is likely to blame.

The latest numbers come from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's 2018 Arctic Report Card, which listed the increasing impacts of global warming on the earth's northernmost region, as EcoWatch has already reported. But the loss of Rangifer tarandus—called caribou in North America and Greenland and reindeer in Siberia and Europe—is of note because it threatens to further throw Arctic ecosystems and cultures out of whack. Reindeer are important prey for wolves and biting flies, and a key source of food and clothing for indigenous groups.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Mackinac Bridge from Straits of Mackinac. Gregory Varnum / Wikimedia Commons

Michigan Gov. Signs Bill to Keep Line 5 Pipeline Flowing

Michigan's outgoing Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation on Wednesday that creates a new government authority to oversee a proposed oil tunnel in the Straits of Mackinac to effectively allow Canadian oil to keep flowing through the Great Lakes.

The controversial tunnel will encase a replacement segment for Enbridge Energy's aging Line 5 pipelines that run along the bottom of the Straits, a narrow waterway that connects Lakes Huron and Michigan.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
The illegal La Pampa gold mine, seen here in 2017, has devastated the Peruvian Amazon and spread poisonous mercury. Planet Labs

Unprecedented New Map Unveils Illegal Mining Destroying Amazon

A first-of-its-kind map has unveiled widespread environmental damage and contamination of the Amazon rainforest caused by the rise illegal mining.

The survey, released Monday by the Amazon Socio-Environmental Geo-Referenced Information Project (RAISG), identifies at least 2,312 sites and 245 areas of prospecting or extraction of minerals such as gold, diamonds and coltan in six Amazonian countries—Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. It also identified 30 rivers affected by mining and related activities.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Mako sharks killed at the South Jersey Shark Tournament in June 2017. Lewis Pugh

Shark Fishing Tournaments Devalue Ocean Wildlife and Harm Marine Conservation Efforts

By Rick Stafford

Just over three years ago, I was clinging to a rock in 20 meters of water, trying to stop the current from pulling me out to sea. I peered out into the gloom of the Pacific. Suddenly, three big dark shapes came into view, moving in a jerky, yet somehow smooth and majestic manner. I looked directly into the left eyes of hammerhead sharks as they swam past, maybe 10 meters from me. I could see the gill slits, the brown skin. But most of all, what struck me was just how big these animals are—far from the biggest sharks in the seas, but incredibly powerfully built and solid. These are truly magnificent creatures.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Politics
Sen. Joe Manchin and United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts held a press conference on Oct. 3, 2017. Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call

Coal-Friendly Manchin Named Top Dem on Senate Energy Panel

After weeks of discord over the potential appointment, Sen. Joe Manchin, the pro-coal Democrat of West Virginia, was named the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Sen. Chuck Schumer announced Tuesday.

Many Democrats and environmental groups were adamantly opposed to Manchin serving as the top Democrat on the committee that oversees policies on climate change, public lands and fossil fuel production.

Keep reading... Show less
Insights/Opinion
Hikers on the Mt. Hollywood Trail in Griffin Park, Calif. while a brush fire burned in the Angeles National Forest on Aug. 26, 2009. Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Major Health Study Shows Benefits of Combating Climate Change

During the holiday season, people often drink toasts to health. There's something more we can do to ensure that we and others will enjoy good health now and into the future: combat climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Energy
Employees of Rural Renewable Energy Alliance working together with students and faculty of Leech Lake Tribal Collage to construct solar panels, 2017. Ryan James White

A Tribe in Northern Minnesota Shows the Country How to Do Community Solar

By Susan Cosier

Last summer on a reservation in northern Minnesota, students from Leech Lake Tribal College earned their solar installation licenses while they dug, drilled and connected five photovoltaic arrays. The panels shine blue on the plain, reflecting the sky as they generate roughly 235 megawatts of electricity a year, enough to help 100 families pay their energy bills. This is community solar in action.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Arches National Park. Chris Dodds / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Trump Auctions Off 150,000 Acres of Public Lands for Fracking Near Utah National Parks

On Tuesday the Trump administration offered more than 150,000 acres of public lands for fossil-fuel extraction near some of Utah's most iconic landscapes, including Arches and Canyonlands national parks.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!