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UN: World lost 100m hectares of forest in two decades

The world has lost nearly 100 million hectares of forests in two decades, marking a steady decline though at a slower pace than before, a UN agency reported Tuesday.

The proportion of forest to total land area fell from 31.9% in 2000 to 31.2% in 2020, now some 4.1 billion hectares, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.

It marks “a net loss of almost 100 million hectares of the world’s forests,” the FAO said.

Deforestation has hit particularly hard sub-Saharan Africa and southeast Asia, where it has accelerated in the last decade, but also Latin and Central America, where it has nonetheless slowed down.

Forests are being cut down mainly to make way for crops or farm animals, especially in less developed countries.

In southeast Asia, forest now covers 47.8% of the land compared to 49% in 2015. In sub-Saharan Africa, it covers 27.8% compared to 28.7% five years ago.

In Indonesia, it is 50.9%, down from 52.5%. In Malaysia, it is 58.2%, down from 59.2% five years ago.

A country strongly focused on agriculture like the Ivory Coast has seen forests reduced to 8.9% of the total land area from 10.7% in 2015. Kenya, Mali and Rwanda have largely held firm against forest loss.

In Latin and Central America, forest covers only 46.7% of the total land, compared to 47.4% five years ago.

In Brazil, forests declined to 59.4% of the country’s territory in 2020 from 60.3% in 2015. In Haiti, deforestation has continued apace — falling to 12.6% of the total land area from 13.2%in 2015.

In contrast, in many parts of Asia, Europe and North America forest area has increased or stayed the same in the last five years with policies to restore woodland and allow forests to expand naturally.

In China, forests make up 23.3%, up from 22.3% in 2015. In Japan, they account for 68.4%, the same as it was five years ago.

In France, forests cover 31.5% of the land in 2020, up from 30.7% in 2015. In Italy, they make up 32.5% of the national territory, up from 31.6% five years ago.

In Britain, they make up 13.2%, up from 13% five years ago.

In Canada, it is unchanged at 38.2%, and in the United States, unchanged at 33.9%.

In Australia the figure rose from 17.3% to 17.4% and in New Zealand from 37.4% to 37.6% over the five years.

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