SOURCE: The Guardian

DATE: June 2, 2020

SNIP: The amount of pristine tropical rainforest lost across the globe increased last year, as the equivalent of a football pitch disappeared every six seconds, a satellite-based analysis has found.

Nearly 12m hectares of tree cover was lost across the tropics, including nearly 4m hectares of dense, old rainforest that held significant stores of carbon and had been home to a vast array of wildlife, according to data from the University of Maryland.

Beyond the tropics, Australia’s devastating bushfires led to a sixfold increase in tree cover loss across the continent in 2019 compared with the previous year. Rod Taylor, from the World Resources Institute, part of the Global Forest Watch network that released the analysis, said as the unprecedented fires continued into 2020, this was only a partial picture of the area affected in the southern fire season.

While Australia’s eucalyptus trees are generally well adapted to respond to fire, Taylor said this year’s blazes burned more intensely, having followed a severe drought, and spread rapidly due to high winds. The fires killed 33 people directly, an estimated 445 more through smoke inhalation, and hundreds of millions of animals.

“Whereas a normal fire might char the bark of a tree, this year’s fires turned many trees into charcoal sticks,” Taylor said. “Australia can expect more extreme fire seasons as fire risk increases due to climate change.”

The loss of trees in the tropics was the third worst recorded since data was first collected in 2002, trailing behind only 2016 and 2017. The heaviest reduction continues to be in Brazil, which accounted for more than a third of all humid tropical forest loss. Government data shows that deforestation for agriculture and other new land uses increased rapidly in the Brazilian Amazon over the past year.