By Rhett A. Butler
Maryland, USA, September 16, 2015
Global forest loss amounted to 18.7 million hectares (46 million acres) in 2014, a decline of about 9 percent relative to 2013 and 20 percent compared to 2012, according to data released today by a team of researchers from the University of Maryland and Google.
The much-anticipated data, published this morning on Global Forest Watch, a platform for mapping ‘big data’ related to forests, reflects changes in tree cover, including deforestation, harvesting of tree plantations, fire damage, and forest die-off from disease and pests. It will be used by analysts, policymakers, conservationists, and others to track progress — or lack there of — on efforts to conserve forests ahead of November climate talks in Paris, where forests are expected to play a major role in the development of an emissions mitigation framework.
The data, which does not include forest gain including reforestation and forest recovery, reveals some interesting trends including persistently high forest loss in boreal regions — where most forest loss is linked to logging, fires, and beetle outbreaks — and the tropics, which is dominated by outright deforestation, typically for pasture, agriculture, or plantations. Among the planet’s biomes, the tropics accounted for the largest share of loss at 10 million hectares in 2014.
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