World Forest Destruction


In the last few decades, especially after the 1980s world forest management has improved significantly as a result of the increased awareness of the devastating impact of forest loss on the world’s biodiversity as well as land erosion and levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The rate of world forest destruction, however, remains alarmingly high.

World forest destruction started to increase dramatically after the mid-19th century. Within a century, an estimated 50 percent of world mature tropical forests have been destroyed or in figures – from 2.9 million to 3 million square miles from the original 6 million square miles. Without serious measures to stop world forest destruction, only about 10 percent of the tropical forests will according to some estimations remain by the year 2030, with another 10 percent in a seriously damaged condition. And with the loss of the remaining tropical forests, we will also lose thousands of animal and plant species which play the key role in biodiversity and the existing ecosystems.


The newest analyses which are made with the aid of satellite imagery suggest that the loss of the world forests is slightly less dramatic than claimed by some scientists and non-governmental agencies. The rate of tropical forest loss is estimated to be slightly below 6 million square hectares per year which is roughly 22 percent less than believed previously. At the same time, the report of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reveals that the rate of word forest loss has slowed down in the recent years. However, many organisations including the Rainforest Foundation with the headquarters in London are critical to the UN report, noting that it also includes areas which do not exactly match the definition of a forest and that the report is mainly based on figures of individual countries including those that are thought to be unreliable as they do not take into account activities such as illegal logging. At the same time, the satellite imagery reveals that the Amazon Rainforest is disappearing twice as fast as previously thought.

Although the rate of world forest destruction remains a matter of debate in the scientific community, there is a consensus that the loss of forests and in the first place of tropical forests remains a major concern, especially in Africa and Asia. South Asia for instance has lost as much as 88 percent of its rainforests, while West Africa has only about 10 percent of the original coastal rainforests. The Amazon Rainforest remains the world’s largest rainforest but as already mentioned earlier, its rate of disappearance is much more serious than scientists believed earlier. As a result, several countries including Brazil declared deforestation a national emergency.

In addition to Africa and Asia, destruction of rainforests is also worrying in Central America which lost about 40 percent of its rainforests in less than one half of a century.