The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Tropical Forests Lost 40 Football Fields of Tree Cover Per Minute in 2017
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.
"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.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
It's become a familiar story with the Trump administration: Scientists write a report that shows the administration's policies will cause environmental damage, then the administration buries the report and fires the scientists.
By Jake Johnson
Calling the global climate crisis both the greatest threat facing the U.S. and the greatest opportunity for transformative change, Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled today a comprehensive Green New Deal proposal that would transition the U.S. economy to 100 percent renewable energy and create 20 million well-paying union jobs over a decade.
The Parties to CITES agreed to list giraffes on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) today at the World Wildlife Conference or CoP18 in Geneva. Such protections will ensure that all giraffe parts trade were legally acquired and not sourced from the poached giraffes trade and will require countries to make non-detriment findings before allowing giraffe exports. The listing will also enable the collection of international trade data for giraffes that might justify greater protections at both CITES and other venues in the future.
The WHO stressed that more research is needed on the potential health risks of microplastic ingestion. luchschen / iStock / Getty Images Plus
The UN's health agency on Thursday said that microplastics contained in drinking water posed a "low" risk at their current levels.
However, the World Health Organization (WHO) — in its first report on the potential health risks of microplastic ingestion — also stressed more research was needed to reassure consumers.