FACTS ON DEFORESTATION

Deforestation is cutting down trees. The facts of deforestation,

Forests cover more than 30% of the Earth’s land surface, according to the World Wildlife fund. These forested areas can provide food, medicine and fuel for more than a billion people. Worldwide, forests provide 13.4 million people with jobs in the forest sector, and another 41 million people have jobs related to forests. 

Today, most deforestation is happening in the tropics. Areas that were inaccessible in the past are now within reach as new roads are constructed through the dense forests. A 2017 report by scientists at the University of Maryland showed that the tropics lost about 61,000 square miles (158,000 square kilometers) of forest in 2017 — an area the size of Bangladesh.

The World bank estimates that about 3.9 million square miles (10 million square km) of forest have been lost since the beginning of the 20th century. In the past 25 years, forests shrank by 502,000 square miles (1.3 million square km) — an area bigger than the size of South Africa. In 2018, The guardian report that every second, a chunk of forest equivalent to the size of a soccer field is lost.

Often, deforestation occurs when forested area is cut and cleared to make way for agriculture or grazing. Reports that just four commodities are responsible for tropical deforestation: beef, soy, palm oil and wood products. UCS estimates that an area the size of Switzerland (14,800 square miles, or 38,300 square km) is lost to deforestation every year. 

Natural fires in tropical forests tend to be rare but intense. Human-lit fires are commonly used to clear land for agricultural use. First, valuable timber is harvested, then the remaining vegetation is burned to make way for crops like soy or cattle grazing. In 2019, the number of human-lit fires in Brazil skyrocketed. As of August 2019, more than 80,000 fires burned in the Amazon, an increase of almost 80% from 2018. 

Many forests are cleared to make way for palm oil plantations. Palm oil is the most commonly produced vegetable oil. It’s cheap, versatile and can be added to both food and personal products like lipsticks and shampoo. Its popularity has spurred people to clear tropical forests to grow more palm trees. Growing the trees that produce the oil requires the levelling of native forest and the destruction of local lands — on the ecosystem. According to a research report, the global palm oil market was valued at $65.73 billion in 2015 and is expected to reach $92.84 billion in 2021. 

Forests can be found from the tropics to high-latitude areas. They are home to 80% of terrestrial biodiversity, containing a wide array of trees, plants, animals and microbes, according to The World Bank, an international financial institution. Some places are especially diverse — the tropical forests of New Guinea, for example, contain more than 6% of the world’s species of plants and animals. 

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