(ORDO NEWS) — An international team of environmentalists concluded that the area of mountain forests has declined by 7% over the past 20 years, which is about one and a half to two times higher than the area of France or Germany.
“For the first time, we systematized and summarized the results of observations of how the area of mountain forests changed and what anthropogenic and natural factors influenced their condition.
Our calculations show that between 2001 and 2018, the area of mountain forests decreased by 7% (78 million ha), and the rate of their losses has increased by 2.7 times in recent years,” the researchers write.
According to the current estimates of the UN World Food Organization, every year the Earth‘s forests lose about 10 million hectares of area as a result of their massive cutting down.
Most of them occur on the territory of tropical and equatorial countries, which is associated both with the growth of their economy and population, and with the globalization of the world economy.
A group of environmentalists led by Associate Professor of the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen (China) Zeng Zhenzhong became interested in how deforestation, as well as various natural and climatic factors, affected the state of mountain forests.
The interest of scientists in them was due to the fact that hundreds of endemic species of flora and fauna inhabit the territory of these forests, which are not found in other parts of the Earth.
Mass clearing of mountain forests
To study the state of these forests, the researchers combined and analyzed images and data from cameras and scientific instruments aboard the Landsat and Terra climate satellites, as well as from a large number of ground-based expeditions and aerial surveys.
In total, the scientists managed to obtain a comprehensive set of data reflecting changes in the state of forests between 2001 and 2018.
Analysis of this data by Zeng Zhenzhong and colleagues showed that the area of mountain forests has decreased over the past two decades by about 78 million hectares, which is about 7% of the original total area of these forests.
Approximately half of these losses are due to logging (42%), while forest fires have destroyed another approximately 29% of mountain forests. About 10% and 15% are accounted for by various forms of anthropogenic activity related to agriculture.
The mountainous forests of Asia have suffered the most from this, accounting for about half of the losses.
Mountainous forests in Europe have been almost equally affected by logging, while North America and Oceania have for the most part avoided such problems.
At the same time, about 40% of clearings fell on tropical forests, while the area of disappeared mountain forests in temperate and subpolar mountain forests turned out to be one and a half and two times less, respectively.
In addition, the scientists found that the rate of decline in mountain forest area began to rise sharply in the early 2010s, resulting in a rate 2.7 times faster than at the beginning of this century.
This suggests that environmentalists and relevant environmental departments need to intensify the fight against deforestation in the mountainous regions of the Earth, the researchers concluded.
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