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The Planet Lost 3.75 Million Hectares of Primary Tropical Forests in 2021

This article is published in collaboration with Statista

by Anna Fleck

Tropical forest loss remained high last year, despite commitments from various companies and governments to curb deforestation. According to data from the University of Maryland, available on the Global Forest Watch platform, in 2021 the tropics lost 11.1 million hectares of tree cover, an area the size of Cuba. Of this total tree loss, 3.75 million hectares correspond to primary tropical forests, areas of key importance for carbon storage and biodiversity. According to the forest monitoring platform, the loss of primary tropical forests in 2021 generated 2.5 Gt of carbon dioxide emissions, which is equivalent to India's annual emission from fossil fuels.

As our graph shows, the level of primary forest loss in the tropics has remained consistent over the last four years for which the source provides data. Although the tropics lost 11 percent less old-growth forest in 2021 compared to the previous year, that followed a 12 percent increase in loss between 2019 and 2020, mainly due to an increase in fire-related losses.

Brazil is the country in the world with the largest amount of primary forests, and also the one that records the most losses of this type of biome. Last year, in that country alone, more than 40 percent of the total loss of primary tropical forests in the world occurred. The country lost 1.5 million hectares, with the Amazon region being the most affected.

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