The world lost nearly 49 million acres of forest in 2015 to logging, wildfires, palm oil plantations, and other development activity, according to new data by the conservation group Global Forest Watch. That is equal to an area roughly the size of Nebraska, Climate Central reported.
While some nations, like Colombia, saw a decline in deforestation, forest loss is generally worsening across the globe. Countries lost 47 percent more tree cover in 2015 than they did in 2001, the report found. Russia, Canada, and the U.S. were the top three contributors to global tree loss, driven by increasing numbers of wildfires and pests infestations, as well as commercial logging. The report found palm oil plantations and wildfires were the major drivers of deforestation in the tropics. In Papua New Guinea, for example, forest loss increased 70 percent in 2015 over previous years.
Researchers used satellite data from Google and the University of Maryland to track the deforestation, measuring the death or removal of trees at least 16 feet tall in 100-square-foot blocks.