Tree loss progressing at an alarming rate

Patrick Harland discusses how an area of primary forest the size of a football pitch was lost every six seconds in 2019.

Patrick Harland
5th June 2020
Image: Pexels
The world's tree population continues to drop at what is now a startling rate. A study of trees taller than fives metres by the University of Maryland concluded that an area of primary forest, areas of forest that have not been significantly disturbed by humans, the size of a football pitch was lost every six seconds in 2019.

A third of this tree loss lies at the feet of Brazil with its worst loss in 13 years, spikes from fires withstanding. In Australia the total tree loss saw a sixfold increase - this can be mostly assigned to the devastating wildfires observed in the country in late 2019. An article on the response of Australian politician's to the crisis can be found here.

11.9 million hectares of global tree cover was lost, with 32% of this coming from primary forest areas, holding the older trees. This is an increase from the previous year and saw 2019 ranked as the third-highest loss of primary trees since the turn of the millennium.

There is hope, however, given that both Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo reported a reduction in tree loss. Indonesia has in fact seen its tree loss remain at historically low levels for the third year consecutively.

Laws and legislation in Indonesia have fueled this turn around, with increased enforcement to prevent forest fires and a temporary prohibition on land clearing for new plantations and logging activities.

The loss of forests, a major issue for climate activists and animal conservationists alike, must be addressed - the solutions to the problem already exist, and have been demonstrated to work. What it requires, much like every other issue related to climate change, is a strong government willing to take action.

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AUTHOR: Patrick Harland
Medicinal Chemistry graduate, Environmental Engineering MSc student. Science editor for The Courier 2019-2020.

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