By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – About 12 million hectares of rainforests disappeared in 2018, according to data from Global Forest Watch (GFW), the equivalent to thirty football fields per minute. Brazil alone decimated 1.3 million hectares of forests, mostly in the Amazon region and specifically near or in indigenous territory.
“Brazil’s primary forest loss in 2018 was lower than its 2016-2017 fire-related spike, but still more than it was from 2007-2015, when the country had reduced its deforestation rate by 70 percent,” stated the report.
Primary, or old growth, tropical rainforests are a crucially important forest ecosystem, containing trees that are hundreds or even thousands of years old. They store more carbon than other forests and are irreplaceable when it comes to sustaining biodiversity, providing habitats for nearly extinct animals and plants.
According to GFW, Brazil and Indonesia accounted for 46 percent of tropical forest deforestation in the world by 2018. The entity commemorates the percentage, which is much lower than that reported in the 2002 report, when these two countries alone accounted for 71 percent of tropical tree losses.
The entity notes that Brazil experienced a significant decline in deforestation between 2007 and 2015, of around 70 percent, but that devastating fires increased significantly between 2016 and 2017.
In 2018 the fires continued although most of the loss of forests in the Amazon region appears to be due to clearing of the land for lumber extract and agricultural purposes, putting at risk, says GFW, the positive declines in deforestation registered in the country in the early 2000s.
In line with the GFW report, PRODES, Brazil’s official monitoring system for the Amazon, has also shown an upward trend in deforestation in the region since 2012.
According to GFW, the most severe primary forest losses occurred near or within indigenous territories, like the Ituna Itata reserve, which saw more than 4,000 of its land illegally “cleaned” in the first half of 2018.
The reserve is home to some of the world’s last remaining un-contacted peoples who depend on the forest for survival and who have conserved it for centuries.