04/05/2021 at 8:35 AM CEST
In the year of the pandemic, the world stopped, & mldr; but not deforestation. In 2020 tropical forests decreased by 12%, despite the fact that human activity had slowed down considerably. In addition, at various times of the year the demand for items that promote deforestation, such as palm oil or cocoa, fell.
This means that during 2020 the world lost another 12.2 million hectares of trees, which corresponds to an area similar to the whole of Switzerland, setting a record in the last twenty years, only behind the figure of 2016, according to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Losses were particularly severe in humid tropical primary forests, such as the Amazon, Congo and Southeast Asia, ecosystems considered of vital importance.
These forests act as carbon sinks in regulating the global climate, along with the ocean, and, in addition, they are also endowed with irreplaceable ecosystems for the functioning of our planet.
Brazil’s forested areas were the worst stops. During 2020, the country concentrated a third of the destruction of forests with 1.7 million hectares lost, which represents an increase of approximately 25% over the previous year.
The most affected was the Amazon, which has been suffering a series of uncontrolled fires since 2019. In this sense, deforestation has grown by 209% in the state of Amazonas since Jair Bolsonaro, president of Brazil, took office.
Since then it has wiped 844 square miles of forest, home to three million natural species and animals that provides 20% of the planet’s oxygen.
Victims of large-scale agriculture
As confirmed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in its latest report on the state of forests, “deforestation and degradation of forest masses continue to occur at alarming rates, which contributes significantly to to the current loss of biodiversity & rdquor ;.
In this sense, it recalls that agricultural expansion continues to be one of the main causes, while the resilience of human food systems and their ability to adapt to future changes depend on the same biodiversity.
In fact, large-scale commercial agriculture – primarily cattle raising and the cultivation of soybeans and palm oil– caused 40% of tropical forest deforestation between 2000 and 2010, and local subsistence agriculture accounted for another 33%.
It is estimated that since 1990 some 420 million hectares of forest have been lost due to changes in land use, despite the fact that the rate of deforestation has decreased in the last thirty years.
An example of this is the data from the last five years, since between 2015 and 2020, the deforestation rate stood at 10 million hectares per year, when in the 1990s it was 16 million hectares per year.
Despite the change, the area of primary forests worldwide has decreased on more than 80 million hectares since 1990. At the same time, more than 100 million hectares of forests are being affected by forest fires, pests, diseases, invasive species, droughts and adverse weather events
From capturing carbon to emitting it
Not only does the destruction of forests destroy the largest carbon dioxide sink on the planet, it can also make them a real enemy in the fight against climate change.
And it is that, although tropical forests play a key role in the fight against global warming because they absorb carbon during photosynthesis, they emit carbon when they burn or deteriorate after dying.
The destruction of 12% of tropical forests released more than 2.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. This figure is equivalent to the annual emissions of 570 million cars, that is to say, practically half of all those in circulation in the world.
Likewise, the destruction of forests leads to the loss of the natural habitat of hundreds of species, causing biological diversity to decline every year.
The vast majority of terrestrial biodiversity is found in the world’s forests, from the boreal forests of the far north to tropical rainforests.
Together they contain more than 60,000 different tree species and provide habitats for 80% of amphibian species, 75% of bird species and 68% of mammal species.
About 60% of all vascular plants are found in tropical forests. Today 8% of evaluated forest plants, 5% of forest animals and 5% of fungi found in forests are classified as critically endangered species.
Very slow progress to reforest
The countries have not remained passive in the face of the situation. Specifically, 61 of them have jointly committed to restore 170 million hectares of forest land degraded under the Bonn Challenge, but progress to date has been slow.
In fact, and at the current rate, “the world is not on track to meet the goal of the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests of increasing the forest area by 3% by 2030 & rdquor ;, as stated by FAO in your report.
To change the course of deforestation and biodiversity loss, experts insist that “we urgently need to transform our food systems to stop deforestation and biodiversity loss.” For this, FAO insists that it is urgent to move away from the current situation, since the demand for food is giving rise to inappropriate agricultural practices and a situation that is still far from being reversed.
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