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APRIL 16, 2015 by KELLEY BERGMAN
Canada and Russia Top Deforestation List, More Than Any Other Country In The World


Russia and Canada are leading the world when it comes to tree cover loss according to an analysis of 2013 high-resolution satellite-based data by researchers at the University of Maryland and Global Forest Watch.

tree-coverloss_0

The cumulative and joint tree cover loss from Russia and Canada exceed the next five countries on the deforestation list combined. Those include Brazil, United States, Indonesia, Republic of the Congo and China. Being the largest two countries by land mass, it would be a reasonable assessment to conclude that human-driven deforestation and forest fires would be higher due to a greater frequency of vegetation.

Trees are defined as vegetation taller than 5m in height and are expressed as a percentage per output grid cell as '2000 Percent Tree Cover'. 'Forest Cover Loss' is defined as a stand-replacement disturbance, or a change from a forest to non-forest state.

Tree cover loss is a measure of the total loss of all trees within a specific area regardless of the cause. It includes human-driven deforestation, forest fires both natural and manmade, clearing trees for agriculture, logging, plantation harvesting, and tree mortality due to disease and other natural causes. Tree cover gain also happened during 2013, but is not included in the 2013 update or this analysis as it is more difficult to monitor than loss. Much of the tree cover loss is only temporary, as forests regenerate after disturbances such as fire, though in the boreal region this is a very slow process.

The findings coincide with the publication of a separate study in Nature Climate Change which suggests the world's tree cover is improving, despite decades of deforestation efforts at the hands of man.

That study cited recent tree-planting efforts in China, the re-growth of forests in former Soviet states and healthier Savannas due to above-average rainfall as factors that helped expand the world's vegetation, adding close to 4 billion tonnes of above-ground carbon to the Earth since 2003.

Still -- when it comes to forest loss, Canada comes in second to Russia.

Global tree cover loss in 2013 continued to be high at over 18 million hectares --about twice the size of Portugal--slightly lower than 2012, but a troubling 5.2 percent increase over the 2000-2012 average," the World Resources Institute (WRI) says in a statement.

"In 2011-2013, Russia and Canada topped the list (mostly due to forest fires), jointly accounting for 34 percent of total loss."

Boreal Forests Experience the Greatest Increase in Tree Cover Loss of Any Region

The new maps show a recent increase in tree cover loss in parts of the world's boreal forests in Russia, Canada and Alaska. Although the tropics had more tree cover loss overall, the boreal region showed the steepest increase of loss of any region. Russia (which at 882 million hectares has the biggest area of tree cover in the world) lost an average of 4.3 million hectares (16,600 square miles) of tree cover per year between 2011 and 2013, an area larger than Switzerland. Fires in the boreal are partly natural (natural fire dynamics play an important role in boreal forests) and partly man-made, with climate change and infrastructure increasingly having an impact. The forest will grow back, but this process takes centuries.

Decision makers around the world can now use this new information to better inform policymaking. In the next few months, more up-to-date 2014 data will be added to Global Forest Watch. Tree cover loss for 2015 can already be monitored through near real-time alerts.

The fate of the world's forests rests partly on the steady progress of scientists in monitoring change and partly on policymakers using this information wisely. It also depends on people on the ground calling for secure land and resource rights, stopping the trade in illegal wood, and shifting to more sustainable systems to grow food and produce commodities.

Sources:
wri.org
nature.com
sciencemag.org
globalforestwatch.org
earthenginepartners.com

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