There is an increasingly urgent need to arrest deforestation, which continues to rise despite statements of intent and hand-wringing by governments the world over.
According to the World Resources Institute net tropical primary forest loss in 2022 was 4.1m hectares, equivalent to losing 11 football pitches of forest per minute, producing 2.7 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions – equivalent to India’s annual fossil fuel emissions.
We are planting new trees only half as quickly as we are cutting them down.
Although most forest loss occurs in the Tropics, and largely down to human activity, the impact of climate change on deforestation is also dramatic and impacting Europe.
On 25th May 2023 a BBC programme Germany’s Forests Under Threat reported that drought and hot summers are killing Germany’s spruce forests. A staple of the timber industry, Germany’s spruce forests are struggling to cope with the consequences of climate change. A report published by the German Ministry of Food and Agriculture in March 2023 on which the BBC programme is based, states that four out of five of Germany’s trees show signs of sickness and suffer severely from the impacts of climate change.
The European Wilderness Society has reported deforestation rising dramatically across Europe within the last two decades. The area was 49% higher from 2015 to 2018 compared to 2011 – 2015. The loss of biomass increased even more with 69%. Twenty-two out of 26 EU countries have increased their harvest rate and the ones with large old-growth forests, including Sweden, Finland, Romania and Poland, show some of the most dramatic rises.
The sheer amount of harvested timber is not the only issue. The way it is harvested has a large influence on the health of forests. The study shows another worrying trend: the average size of harvested forest patches has increased by 34%. This indicates more or larger clear cuts that leave the harvested areas vulnerable to drought, erosion and biodiversity loss.