A recent review by the Rainforest Foundation of remaining rainforest areas shows that more than half of the forests are completely or partially destroyed.
Such rainforests, often called degraded forests, are more prone to deforestation than unharmed rainforests.
Secretary-General Øyvind Eggen of the Rainforest Foundation believes the new deforestation figures portent a disaster.
“Even where the forest deck looks green and dense on satellite images, there may have been major damage,” he explained.
Increases the risk of drought and fire
A degraded forest is difficult to detect because the crown is still green but the foliage beneath is thinning out and the forest holds less moisture. As a result, fewer species can live in the area, making the forest drier and more vulnerable to drought, fire and human intervention.
Degradation, which often occurs through the harvesting of single trees, the construction of small roads or other interventions, is thus often a step towards complete deforestation.
Eggen believes the figures are alarming.
“These figures should mobilize action to stop further degradation and stop any new interventions in intact forests,” he said.
Not too late
Many of the fires that ravaged the Amazon this fall were just in more flammable and destroyed forests.
Rainforests that are not destroyed are not as prone to fires as completely or partially destroyed forest.
Eggen fears more intense and prolonged fires in the future if the destruction does not stop. However, he does not think it is too late to halt the destruction.
“Several of the world’s rainforests are approaching a tipping point where destruction will be impossible to stop but we are not there yet,” he explained.
Brazil has the largest continuous rainforest in the world. Here, deforestation has risen sharply under the country’s right-wing populist president Jair Bolsonaro.
Deforestation in the Brazilian part of the Amazon has increased by almost 30 percent this year compared to last year, according to a report by the Brazilian space research organization INPE last week.
The new figures showing how much of the remaining forest has been destroyed will be presented at a major conference in Oslo on Wednesday when the Rainforest Foundation celebrates its 30th birthday. Among the participants will be Prime Minister Erna Solberg (H) and British artist Sting.
© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today