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20 million hectares of trees lost in 2015 – the size of Uganda: report

The world lost nearly 20 million hectares (49 million acres) of tree cover, an area the size of Uganda in 2015, and also lost 47% more tree cover in 2015 than in 2001, according to a recent report released by Global Forest Watch.

The new satellite-based data, released in association with the University of Maryland and Google, fingers Canada, Russia and the US as top three contributors to global tree cover loss in 2015.

African countries such as Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, DR Congo, Mozambique, Angola and Guinea are also included in this hot list of 30 countries, with the DRC emerging sixth and first in Africa.

Oil palm expansion has been blamed for contributing to the dramatic increase in tree cover loss in Papua New Guinea (Oceania) and West Africa.  The report says in 2015, Liberia and Sierra Leone respectively experienced a six and 12-fold increase in tree cover loss rates compared to 2001.

West Africa, where top oil palm producers (Nigeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast) are located, is at high risk for deforestation from palm oil, with Liberia set to become a new frontier for development of the crop.
The data, which measures the death or removal of trees at least 5 metres tall within 30×30 metre-areas, provides an annual insight into patterns of tree cover loss over time.

However, the report says that without information on timber harvesting and tree cover gain (caused by reforestation or natural regeneration), it is difficult to say how much forest is actually lost in these countries.

“We anticipate annual tree cover gain data will be available in 2018, which will allow us to more accurately monitor forest change in these countries,” the report points out.

(Global Forest Watch: courtesy of Mikaela Weisse, Liz Goldman, Nancy Harris, Matt Hansen, Svetlana Turubanova and Peter Potapov. Final editing by Issa Sikiti da Silva. Pic courtesy of Dreamstime.com)

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