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Equivalent of 40 football pitches of forest was lost every minute in 2017

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Worrying trends of worsening tree cover loss globally caused by natural disasters and man made events show no signs of stopping

Anna Freeman

28 Junio 2018 12:01

In 2017, 39 million acres of forest was lost from the world's tropics, equating to a loss of a 40 football pitch-sized areas every minute, according to a new report.

There is one tiny upside: the figure is slightly lower than the record amounts of canopy destroyed in 2016. But that shouldn’t offer much solace. The data suggests that this tragic trend is showing no signs of slowing down - or disappearing.

The University of Maryland collected information as part of the US-based World Resources Institute's Global Forest Watch and it was used in a snapshot describing the amount of tropical forest that lost large amounts of tree cover last year.

Tree cover loss isn't the same thing as deforestation, which actually is reportedly declining. Reduction in a forest's cover refers to the removal of 30 percent of canopy in a given ecosystem, often caused by natural disasters or man made fires.

39 million acres of canopy loss is hard to understand without some visual representation. It is close to 160,000 square kilometres (about 60,000 square miles). It is bigger than Bangladesh.

It is also equivalent to stripping 40 standard American football fields every minute for a year.

Climate change is a significant contributing factor towards large wildfires and tree-stripping weather events.

On the island of Dominica, an extreme hurricane season stripped bare a third of its tree cover in 2017. Similarly, Puerto Rico lost 10 percent of its canopy.

Colombia saw a nearly 50 percent rise in tree cover loss. The cause of this decline was more political than natural, created by the disarming of the guerilla movement known as Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The rebel faction used to keep commercial interests out of the forests, but their removal has paved the way for illegal land clearance for coca plantations, logging, and pastures fields.

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