Two-thirds of tropical rainforests destroyed or degraded by humans

Monkey sitting on a tree in forest
Monkey in forest, photo: Diego Guzmán on Unsplash

Humans have degraded or destroyed about two-thirds of the world’s original tropical rainforests, home to monkeys, jaguars, birds and many other animals, according to an analysis by the non-profit Rainforest Foundation Norway.

Logging and land conversion, mainly for animal agriculture, have wiped out 34% of the world’s original tropical rainforests. It has degraded another 30%, leaving them more vulnerable to fire and future destruction.

The total loss between just 2002 and 2019 was larger than the area of France. More than half of that destruction has been in South America’s Amazon and bordering rainforests.

The Brazilian Amazon rainforest has been under intense pressure in recent decades. The huge global demand for meat has driven farmers to burn down big pieces of forests to keep cows or grow soybeans, which are mostly used as animal food at farms.

Southeast Asian islands, mostly belonging to Indonesia, rank second in terms of forest destruction since 2002, with much of those forests cleared for palm oil plantations.

Central Africa ranks third, with most of the destruction centered around the Congo River, due to traditional and commercial farming and logging.

The Amazon and its neighbors – the Orinoco and the Andean rainforest – account for 73.5% of tropical forests still intact, according to the report.

The new report “reinforces that Brazil must take care of the forest,” said Ane Alencar, a geographer with the Amazon Environmental Research Institute who was not involved in the work. “Brazil has the biggest chunk of tropical forest in the world and is also losing the most.”

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