Record-high global tree cover loss driven by agriculture

  • The new data reveals record-breaking global tree cover loss for 2016 through 2018.
  • In 2018 alone, the area of tree cover loss was larger than the UK.
  • Agriculture continues to drive tree cover loss globally and in the tropics while forestry and wildfires drive forest loss in North America.

    Author Liz Kimbrough

Across the globe, tree cover loss hit record highs from 2016-2018, with roughly the size of a soccer field lost each second. In 2018 alone, the area of tree cover loss was larger than the UK.

Using high-resolution Google Earth imagery, researchers measured global forest loss from 2001-2015 and categorized its causes. These results, published in Science in 2018, were recently updated by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and The Sustainability Consortium on the Global Forest Watch website to include information for 2016 through 2018.

The new data reveals global tree cover loss reached an all-time high in 2016 and 2017, with the drivers of loss relatively unchanged from previous years.  Worldwide, the primary culprit continued to be agriculture.

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