According to data from the University of Maryland and Global Forest Watch the rate at which the world’s forests are being destroyed increased sharply last year, with at least 42,000 sq km of tree cover lost in key tropical regions.
The loss was well above the average for the last 20 years, with 2020 the third worst year for forest destruction since 2002 when comparable monitoring began.
The losses were particularly severe in humid tropical primary forests, such as the Amazon, the Congo and south-east Asia. These forests are vital as carbon sinks in the regulating the global climate, as well as for their irreplaceable ecosystems. Losses from this type of forest alone amounted to 4.2m hectares (10.4m acres). Brazil’s forested areas fared the worst, with 1.7m hectares destroyed, an increase of about a quarter on the previous year. Altogether, 12.2m hectares of tree cover were lost in the tropics in 2020, an increase of 12% on 2019, according to the World Resources Institute (WRI).