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Forests: Protected and 'Intact' Forests Fell at 'Alarming' Rate 2000-2012, Says Study

Oct 15, 2015 06:16 PM EDT
Forest above Crafnant, Wales
Between 2000 and 2012, a study from Finland's University of Aalto, King's College London and others found that protected forests were still being cut in many places, and that this happened even in countries with a high Gross Domestic Product.
(Photo : Flickr: Stuart Madden)

On our blue Earth, there are also green forest belts. A surprising more than 50 percent of the country of Estonia is forest, for instance. More than a third of those woodlands are currently protected. 

Such forest richness and seeming protection in a country is a little unusual now, though. A new study from Finland's Aalto University, King's College London, and UV University of Amsterdam says that too much forest fell in the first 12 years of the 21st century, and that some of it was "protected" trees, and that a good portion was lost in association with agriculture. From 2000 to 2012, the team says, we lost 3 percent of the world's protected forest, 2.5 percent of its intact forest, and 1.5 percent of the protected intact forest, according to a release. The team's research was reported in Plos One

No doubt about it, illegal logging has taken place. For instance, recently the United States' largest specialty retailer of hardwood flooring, Lumber Liquidators, pled guilty to buying wood from a company openly associated with illegal logging that buys wood from companies that log in one of Russia's most threatened temperate forests, home to Siberian tigers. 

The Aalto University study used global remote sensing-based data on forest cover change, along with spatial datasets from around the world about protected areas and intact forests. With those, they found that in Australia, Oceania and North America, protected-forest loss was higher than 5 percent. Pretty significantly, in some areas of Central Asia, Africa and Europe, relative forest loss was at a higher rate within protected areas than outside of them, according to the release.

The good news is that in several countries of Southeast Asia and South America, protection at this point prevents forest loss to a significant extent.

The study findings included that protected-forest loss often happened in association with agricultural land use. But in contrast, losses in protected and intact forests also often occurred in areas with a high gross domestic product.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

-Follow Catherine on Twitter @TreesWhales

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