The World Lost 40 Football Fields of Tropical Trees Every Minute in 2017

Credit: World Resources Institute, Global Forest Watch

Despite international efforts to reduce deforestation, the world’s tropical forests lost 39 million acres of trees in 2017, an area roughly the size of Bangladesh, according to new data from the environmental monitoring group Global Forest Watch. That is equal to losing 40 football fields of tropical trees every minute for an entire year — making 2017 the second-worst year for tropical deforestation on record, just behind 2016.

According to The New York Times, the satellite images used by Global Forest Watch track only forest loss, not regrowth following storms, fires, and logging, offering only a partial picture of the health of the world’s forests. But several studies confirm that tropical forests are shrinking worldwide.

Colombia experienced one of the most dramatic increases in tree loss last year, with a 46 percent increase in deforestation from 2016, and double its loss rate from 2001-2015. Brazil had its second-highest tree loss on record, driven largely by a record-breaking number of forest fires set by people in the Amazon to clear land for pasture and agriculture.

On the positive front, deforestation in Indonesia declined to its lowest level in more than a decade, including a 60 percent reduction in primary forest loss.

“These new numbers show an alarming situation for the world’s rain forests,” Andreas Dahl-Jorgensen, deputy director of the Norwegian government’s International Climate and Forest Initiative, told The New York Times. “We simply won’t meet the climate targets that we agreed to in Paris without a drastic reduction in tropical deforestation and restoration of forests around the world.”