Tropical Forest Loss Declined In 2023, Threats Still Persistent

by | Apr 4, 2024 | Environmental News, Research Updates

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An analysis released on Thursday by the Global Forest Watch monitoring project indicates that although tropical forest loss declined in 2023, other indicators suggest that the world’s woodlands continue to face significant threats. The destruction of forests plays a crucial role in driving global climate change. Trees act as carbon sinks, absorbing carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas responsible for climate warming, and storing it as carbon in their wood. When forests are destroyed, this stored carbon is released into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. Additionally, forest destruction poses a threat to biodiversity, as many species rely on forests for habitat and survival.

Tropical Forest Loss Declined In 2023

Tropical forests saw some improvement, such as the loss of primary forests, which are untouched by human activity and often referred to as old-growth forests, which decreased by 9% compared to 2022.

However, researchers from Global Forest Watch emphasized that forest destruction remains alarmingly high. Approximately 37,000 square kilometers (14,000 square miles) of tropical primary forest were lost worldwide last year, an area nearly equivalent to Switzerland and larger than the U.S. state of Maryland. Global Forest Watch, a project of the Washington-based nonprofit research organization World Resources Institute, utilizes satellite imagery for its analysis, with most data compiled by researchers from the University of Maryland.

Despite tropical forest loss declined in 2023 in Brazil and Colombia, these improvements were counteracted by increased losses in other regions, according to Mikaela Weisse, the director of Global Forest Watch. “The world experienced progress in some areas but setbacks in others,” Weisse stated during a press briefing.

Brazil, the DRC, and Bolivia were identified as the top tropical countries experiencing the most primary forest loss. Despite a 36% decrease in destruction in Brazil, attributed to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s aggressive conservation policies, particularly in the Amazon, forest loss in the country persisted. Similarly, neighboring Colombia saw a significant 49% reduction in forest loss, largely due to President Gustavo Petro’s emphasis on environmental preservation during the peace process with armed groups in jungle areas.

Forest loss in the Democratic Republic of Congo remained relatively stable but remained at a high level, around 5,000 square kilometers (1,930 square miles). Meanwhile, Bolivia ranked third, experiencing a record-high primary forest loss for the third consecutive year, with a surge of 27%. This increase was primarily driven by agricultural production and wildfires.

Also Read: US Climate Law Boosts Solar & Battery Adoption, While Hydrogen, Other Initiatives Lag Behind

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