Where have all the forests gone?

By Dave Armstrong - 26 Feb 2015 10:9:0 GMT
Where have all the forests gone?

In Iquitos, Loreto, in the Amazon Basin, traditional houses can still be built of local wood, because those loggers can’t yet reach across the water with their giant tractors!

Amazon image; Credit: © Shutterstock

Using 5,444 Landsat satellite photographs, Do-Hyung Kim Joseph Sexton and John Townshend from the University of Maryland have proved FAO estimates of tropical forest cover to be misleading. Instead of losing a lot of forest, it seems we have lost much more, with accelerated deforestation especially between 2000 and 2005.

The 20 years of HR maps reveal an accurate picture that so far has been unobtainable. We have been deceived by profit-motivated loggers and gullible UN agencies although it is impossible to penetrate rainforests enough to gain an exact picture from the ground. In fact there was a 62% acceleration in deforestation from 1990 to 2010, while the FAO were claiming to have recorded an actual 25% reduction in their Forest Resource assessments (FRA.)

Venezuela, Bolivia and Brazil, the DRC and Congo and Indonesia are shown up as the grossest losers but many smaller countries have lost an equivalent amount, as a percentage of their total forest. This kind of research provides the necessary benchmark we can use now to contradict false claims ar proceed with saving those Reserves and National Parks that are often misused, instead of being maintained as habitat for vital plants and animals. It is relatively easy, for example, to provide corridors for organisms to use between small areas of forest, but maintaining those remaining trees, against an economic background of corruption and so-called productivity must be difficult for local people and national politicians alike.

The tragic situation is that out of 34 nations studied, 16 had failed to provide information, or the FRA had failed to record increases in the rate of deforestation. Instead of simply losing rainforest, we also have a large increase in greenhouse gases, as these forest plants will no longer absorb carbon. The role of forest in climate cycles is also now very obvious as drought strikes areas that have never been short of water during human history. Forest, in upland areas particularly, holds water back almost like a swamp, but that precious liquid drains directly into the sea without that tree cover.

The solution, now that our eyes have been opened? These people simply have to be stopped. Even the logging companies know well that they will force prices up as the last forests are removed from the planet. And their petty excuse that they will replace the trees? If only! Their expertise in acquiring new tractors to efficiently degrade habitat cannot be matched by our ability to recreate the extreme biodiversity that belongs to South America, Africa and Asia. These rare and often unknown species do not belong to the furniture and zoos of richer nations.

Geophysical Research Letters publish Accelerated Deforestation in the Humid Tropics from the 1990s to the 2000s, although the full text is restricted. We reported the political situation in Brazil recently, where of course there have been tragic deaths and increasing disruption for the vulnerable native people as well as the rest of the Brazilian nation, through innumerable examples of oil, logging and mining exploitation.