PARIS | Some 43 million hectares of forests, the size of a country like Iraq, were lost on the 24 major “fronts” of deforestation around the world between 2004 and 2017, according to a WWF report released Wednesday.
Commercial agriculture, which clears for crops and raising livestock, is the main cause of this deforestation, especially in South America, according to the NGO. The mining sector, but also infrastructure, particularly roads, the forestry industry and subsistence agriculture, especially in Africa, are also important factors identified.
Of these 24 “hot spots” of global deforestation, 9 are in Latin America, 8 in Africa and 7 in Asia-Pacific. They alone concentrate more than half (52%) of global tropical deforestation, according to the NGO.
The most affected areas are the Brazilian Amazon and the Cerrado region in Brazil, the Bolivian Amazon, Paraguay, Argentina, Madagascar, and the islands of Sumatra and Borneo in Indonesia and Malaysia.
The Brazilian region of Cerrado is, for example, mainly affected by the development of agriculture, with a loss of 3 million hectares of forests between 2004 and 2017 and a disappearance of more than 30% of its total forest area since l year 2000.
In addition, nearly half (45%) of the remaining forests in these 24 areas have suffered degradation or fragmentation, making them more vulnerable, especially to fires such as mega-fire which have multiplied in recent years.
This weakening endangers the vulnerable ecosystems that forests shelter, and therefore the habitats of many species. And promotes contact between wild and human species, and therefore the passage to humans of diseases of animal origin (zoonoses), as illustrated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Forests are also very important carbon sinks, allowing them to absorb a large amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity.
The report calls on States and the economic sector to fight against deforestation, in particular by guaranteeing the rights of indigenous populations. It also calls on populations to avoid products that promote this phenomenon, in particular by changing their diet towards less animal protein.
“Poor management of the world’s forests promotes carbon emissions, devastates biodiversity, destroys vital ecosystems and affects the livelihoods and well-being of local communities and societies in general,” warns Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF.
The boss of the French branch of the NGO, Véronique Andrieux, for her part underlined “the importance of protecting nature and in particular of preserving our forests, in particular to prevent the next pandemics. (…) Without living forests, we will not have a planet and healthy humans ”.
Last September, a report from the FAO, the UN agency that oversees the sector, warned that the forest had lost “almost 100 million hectares” on the planet in two decades, falling to 31.2% (4, 1 billion hectares) of the earth’s surface in 2020, compared to 31.5% in 2010 and 31.9% in 2000.