Oct 23, 2017

Forest fires stoke record loss in world tree cover: monitor

Brazil
by
Alister Doyle
,
Reuters
Police and a fire fighter from a local forestry company try to extinguish a forest fire in the village in Rokan Hulu regency, Riau province, Sumatra, Indonesia August 28, 2016 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Picture taken August 28, 2016. Photo: Rony Muharrman, Antara Foto via Reuters
Police and a fire fighter from a local forestry company try to extinguish a forest fire in the village in Rokan Hulu regency, Riau province, Sumatra, Indonesia August 28, 2016 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Picture taken August 28, 2016. Photo: Rony Muharrman, Antara Foto via Reuters

Forest fires in Brazil and Indonesia contributed to a record loss in global tree cover in 2016, equivalent to the size of New Zealand, that could accelerate deforestation blamed for climate change, an independent forest monitoring network said on Monday.

Man-made global warming increased the risks of wildfires by adding to extreme heat and droughts in some regions, according to Global Forest Watch (GFW). This year, California and Portugal have been among places suffering deadly blazes.

The combination of forest fires with land use change and climate change could speed destruction in areas like the Amazon and contribute to emissions of carbon dioxide, one of the gases that contribute to global warming, the report said.

Worldwide, global tree cover losses rose 51 percent in 2016 from the previous year to 297,000 square kilometers (114,672 square miles), according to data from the University of Maryland compiled by Global Forest Watch (GFW).

That was a record high for GFW records stretching back to 2000, and contrasted with some other satellite measurements that indicated a slowdown in the pace of forest clearances to make way for farms, cities and roads.