WORLD / CROSS-BORDERS
Sharp increase in destruction of virgin forest in 2020
Sharp increase in destruction of virgin forest
Published: Mar 31, 2021 07:53 PM
An area of pristine rainforest the size of the Netherlands was burned or hacked down in 2020, as the destruction of the planet's tropical forests accelerated despite a global economic slowdown, according to research on Wednesday.

Sharp increase in destruction of virgin forest in 2020 Photo: VCG

Sharp increase in destruction of virgin forest in 2020 Photo: VCG

The worst losses were in Brazil, three times higher than the next highest country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to a report from Global Forest Watch based on satellite data.

Across the tropics, the study registered the destruction in 2020 of 4.2 million hectares of primary forest - 12 percent higher than 2019.

Ecosystems straddling the equator shelter abundant biodiversity and store vast amounts of carbon. In total, the tropics lost 12.2 million hectares of tree cover - including forests and plantations - in 2020, driven largely by agriculture. But researchers said extreme heat and drought also stoked huge fires that consumed swathes of forest across Australia, Siberia and deep into the Amazon.

These losses are a "climate emergency. They're a biodiversity crisis, a humanitarian disaster, and a loss of economic opportunity," said Frances Seymour of the World Resources Institute, which is behind the report. 

Researchers said there was little sign that the pandemic had changed the trajectory of forest destruction and warned that the worst could be still to come if countries slash protections in an attempt to ramp up economic growth.
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