Loss of Biodiversity Over Time - General Deforestation
Research studies by the FAO indicate that the total global forest area decreased from 4,128 million hectares in 1990 to 3,999 million hectares in 2015. According to WWF, the global rate of deforestation is 18.7 million acres per year.
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
- Research conducted by Williams in 2002 indicates that over a period of 5,000 years, the total estimated forest loss across the globe was 1.8 billion hectares, an average of 360,000 hectares each year.
- Studies conducted by the FAO in 2010 further indicated that due to rapid population growth and increased demand for food, fuel, and fiber, the average annual net forest loss increased to 5.2 million hectares in the past 10 years.
- A 2012 report by the FAO aggregated the results of the studies conducted by Williams in 2002 and FAO in 2010 to estimate total deforestation, by forest type over time. According to these estimates, around 400 million hectares of forests (mainly temperate forests) were lost before 1700.
- Although the FAO's estimates do not provide concrete numbers, a bar chart of the historical deforestation indicates that from 1920–1949, total global deforestation increased to roughly over 300 million hectares (100 million ha for temperate forest and over 200 million ha for tropical forests.)
- From 1950 to 1979, total global deforestation increased to more than 300 million ha. However, from 1980 to 1995, total global deforestation decreased to between 200 to 250 million ha.
- Between 1996–2010, deforestation of over 100 million ha was recorded in tropical forests.
- From 1700 to 1900, nearly 50% of the forest area in the US was converted to agricultural use. However, the forest area in the US has increased in the last 100 years, despite the growing population and urban development.
- Figures released by the FAO in 2006 indicated that each year, 13 million hectares of forests are lost globally.
- According to the Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) conducted by the FAO in 2015, total forest area across the globe reduced from 31.6% (4,128 million hectares) to 30.6% (3,999 million hectares) of the total land area from 1990 to 2015. However, the net annual rate of forest loss decreased from 0.18% in the early 1990s to 0.08% during 2010-2015.
- The 2015 Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) further indicated that nearly 129 million hectares of forest have been lost since 1990.
World Wide Fund (WWF)
- WWF reports that the rate of global deforestation is close to 18.7 million acres per year. This rate is equivalent to 27 soccer fields or 48 football fields every minute.
- In the Amazon, nearly 17% of the forest area has been lost in the past 50 years due to deforestation for cattle ranching.
- According to Climate Focus, since 2014, the Earth has lost an area of "tree cover" equal to the size of the United Kingdom on average per year. A significant percentage of this lost tree cover was composed of irreplaceable primary forest.
- Tropical forests constituted 91% to 94% of the total deforestation from 2011 to 2015.
- Statistics released by Climate Focus indicate that every year, Latin America loses the most tree cover. The rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon in June 2019 grew by 88% compared to the same month in 2018.
Major Causes of Deforestation
- The expansion of agricultural activities is the biggest driver of deforestation.
- More than 90% of global deforestation related to agricultural activities and urbanization was observed in the tropics.
- Artisanal and small-scale mining is also one of the most significant sources of forest loss in some areas, e.g. more than 50,000 hectares of deforestation was observed in the Peruvian Amazon area since 2011.
Effects of Deforestation
- Figures released by the FAO in 2006 indicated that deforestation constituted nearly 25-30% (1.6 billion tonnes) of the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere each year, causing global warming.
- According to more recent figures released by the World Bank, deforestation and forest degradation contribute to nearly 12% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
- Globally, 1.25 billion people rely on forests for shelter, water, livelihood, and fuel. Nearly 750 million people live in forests. Forests are a direct source of livelihoods of 90% of the more than a billion people living in extreme poverty. Deforestation has devastating impacts on the lives and livelihood of these people.