Monday, July 24, 2017

A Mississippi-Sized Area of Forest Disappeared in 2015

Areas shaded in pink show points that have lost trees at least 16 feet in height due to deforestation, wildfire or some other cause of mortality between 2001 and 2015. (Credit: Global Forest Watch) Click to Enlarge.
A Mississippi-sized chunk of the world’s forests was decimated in 2015 because of wildfire, logging and expanding palm oil plantations, according to a new study.  The loss is part of a continuing trend of deforestation that could have devastating implications for the climate.

About 49 million acres of forest disappeared worldwide in 2015, mainly in North America and the tropics, putting the year’s global deforestation level at its second-highest point since data gathering began in 2001.  In all, the globe lost 47 percent more forested land in 2015 than it did 16 years ago, according to the study by Global Forest Watch.

Deforestation accounts for more than 10 percent of the global carbon dioxide emissions driving climate change.  Dense tropical forests are also critical to keeping the climate stable because they suck up large amounts of human carbon pollution from the atmosphere, storing it in tree trunks, leaves, roots and soil.

Using satellite data provided by Google and the University of Maryland, Global Forest Watch researchers measured the death or removal of trees at least 16 feet tall.  

2014 was a record-breaking year for tree-cover loss when nearly 60 million acres of forests disappeared.  2015 saw less, but it’s too soon to say whether deforestation is truly on a downward swing because of uncertainty in some of the data, study co-author Mikaela Weisse, a research analyst for Global Forest Watch at the World Resources Institute, said.

For example, Canada, Russia and the U.S. saw the most forest cover loss in 2015, mainly because of wildfire, pest infestations and commercial logging.  But the study says the actual level of forest loss in those countries is difficult to determine because there is insufficient available data on logging and natural tree re-growth.

Read more at A Mississippi-Sized Area of Forest Disappeared in 2015

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