Record Tree Losses in 2021

According to a new Global Forest Watch analysis, tree cover losses in northern regions of the world were the highest on record in 2021. Losses  for these boreal forests were up 30% from 2020, with wildfires in Russia causing massive losses.

This new data records tree cover losses in 2021 and does not represent the overall net picture when new plantings are considered.

One of the big concerns in the new figures is the loss of boreal forests which are found in northern parts of Russia, Canada, and Alaska. Climate change is seen as a major cause of tree loss in these areas, with hotter, drier conditions leading to more wildfires and increased insect damage. Russia experienced its worst fire season since records began in 2001, with over 6.5 million hectares lost.

Researchers are concentrating their efforts in the world's tropical regions, which account for more than 96% of deforestation. Brazil and the Democratic Republic of the Congo continue to lead the way in tropical primary forests, as they have for many years. Over 40% of this primary forest loss occurred in Brazil, with non-fire related destruction increasing by 9% overall, according to researchers, which is typically associated with agricultural expansion. These losses were as high as 25% in some key states in the western Amazon region.

This is a major concern for climate scientists, who believe that the Brazilian rainforest is approaching a tipping point where it will emit more carbon than it stores, which would be a disastrous development in terms of limiting the rise in global temperatures this century.