Vast areas of prime-time rainforest went up in smoke last year, and an area the size of Switzerland was cut down to make way for livestock farming and commercial crops, scientists have announced.
Satellite images indicate that a third of the losses are in Brazil, with DR Congo and Indonesia in second and third place, according to global forest watch.
Last year, 38,000 square kilometers of primeval rainforest were destroyed, the equivalent of a football field surface every six seconds.
The total area of tropical forests destroyed by fires and bleachers was actually three times larger last year, but the primary virgin forests, i.e. rainforests created by nature and which develop without any impact of civilization, are particularly precious.
Untouched by modern development, they are the refuge of the most diverse wildlife on Earth and in themselves ‘lock’ vast amounts of carbon. When they burn, carbon escapes into the atmosphere like harmful CO2.
If no one touched them from now on, it would take decades or even centuries for those forests to be restored to their original state, said Mikaela Weisse of Global Forest Watch.
Forest fires that engulfed parts of Brazil last year filled the headlines of the world’s media, but they are not the main cause of deforestation of prime-time rainforests. The primary problem is illegal logging, most often in areas inhabited by indigenous peoples.
And that was before President Jair Bolsonaro announced the easing of the law in these, normally protected areas to facilitate commercial mining and agriculture and oil and gas exploitation. All this deforestation could further widen.
But in Indonesia last year, five percent of the smaller forest was destroyed, just over 3,000 square kilometres, the third consecutive year that forest destruction is in decline and nearly three times less than the worst, in 2016. Year.
Indonesia is one of the few bright spots in global data in tropical deforestation in recent years, Weisse said.
Tropical systems are vulnerable to climate change and exploitation. According to a March study, the Amazon rainforest is approaching the threshold of deforestation after which there is no longer a return – it will be transformed into an arid savannah in just half a century.
Other countries where most primary virgin rainforests have been lost in the past year are Peru, Malaysia, Colombia, Laos, Mexico, and Cambodia.