Russian fires in 2021 cause record decline in forest cover in the northern part of the world

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Loss of forest cover in the northern regions of the world in 2021 was the highest ever recorded: compared to 2020, it increased by 30%, according to experts from Global Forest Watch, an application for real-time monitoring of the planet’s forest cover . The main reason for this jump is called a sharp increase in the number of forest fires in Russia.

Forests are shrinking in the northern part of the world, but trees are shrinking faster in the south, in the tropics of the world, accounting for more than 96% of global deforestation, according to a Global Forest Watch analysis.

According to experts, last year the forest cover was disappearing here every minute, an area comparable to ten football fields. Brazil leads by a wide margin, where deforestation for agricultural purposes is in full swing and in second place is the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These two countries have been at the forefront of clearing virgin rainforests for many years.

The new data only reflect the loss of forests in 2021 and do not give a complete picture of the state of the forest cover of the planet, as they do not take into account the new plantings.

Alarm signal from Russia

However, the most worrying factor in the new data is the loss of taiga forests in the northern parts of Russia, Canada and Alaska.

Photographer, Getty Images

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Forest fires in Russia have become the most devastating in the history of observations since 2001

While deforestation and wildfires in these areas rarely lead to permanent deforestation, the number of trees destroyed in 2021 is up 30% from 2020, the highest level ever recorded.

The main cause of tree loss in these areas is considered to be climate change, as warmer and drier conditions result in more fires and more insect damage.

In Russia, the 2021 fire season was the worst since observations began in 2001, with more than 6.5 million hectares of forest lost.

“This is very worrying,” said Rod Taylor of the World Resources Institute, who contributed to the new Global Forest Watch analysis. “Global warming tends to happen faster as we get closer to the poles, so it seems the ecosystem is not coping with climate change.” “Therefore, we see more frequent, widespread and intense fires compared to normal conditions.”

Forest loss in the tropics has also remained very high – in terms of the amount of carbon emitted, the destruction of these clusters corresponds to the annual emissions from burning fossil fuels across India.

Losses in Brazil

Brazil is responsible for more than 40% of the world’s primary forest loss. At the same time, total deforestation, which is not related to fires, has increased by 9% here – researchers note that this is usually linked to the expansion of agriculture.

Photographer, EVARISTO SA

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Officials are inspecting an illegal logging site in Brazil

Researchers fear that the Brazilian rainforest will reach a point where it emits more carbon than it stores. This will make it much more difficult to achieve a slowdown in global warming this century.

There is also growing concern about tree loss in Bolivia, where more than two-thirds of logging trees are related to agriculture, especially cattle.

However, there is some good news: Indonesia is reducing its forest cover loss for the fifth consecutive year. This is due to several reasons.

The Indonesian government has imposed a moratorium on deforestation and the drying up of peatlands for palm oil production. It also included in the national climate change plan a commitment to reduce forest emissions so that by 2030 trees absorb more carbon than they produce.

Deforestation for palm oil production in Indonesia has reached its lowest level in 20 years. The government has once again tightened the rules by which the pulp and paper industry obtains permits for the use of the new land.

The problem with palm oil

However, there are fears that the situation in Indonesia could change for the worse in the coming years.

“The price of palm oil is currently at its highest level in 40 years, and this could increase the appetite of industrialists and lead to the expansion of plantation areas,” said Hidaya Hamza of the World Resources Institute Indonesia. “And a temporary ban, the new oil palm plantations were not extended last year.

Photographer, Getty Images

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Indonesia’s government efforts significantly reduce deforestation for palm oil plantations

Although the figures from Indonesia (as well as Malaysia) are encouraging, the overall picture remains worrying.

At COP26 in Glasgow last fall, more than 140 countries pledged to stop and reverse deforestation by 2030.

In many countries, this will require decisive and swift action – something that has not yet been observed.

One of the main problems is that, despite the best efforts of many governments to preserve forests, a rapidly changing climate may undermine their work.

“Fires are often associated with the warmer and more difficult conditions brought about by climate change. This exacerbates the effects of deforestation itself,” said Frances Seymour of the World Resources Institute. “And these losses bring us closer to the moment when the changes become irreversible, for example, the mass conversion of the Amazon rainforest into savannas.” [на которых преобладает травянистый покровред.]. “This will release enough carbon into the atmosphere to nullify all the objectives of the Paris Agreement.”

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