In 1990, Switzerland had 11,510 sq. km. of forest. By 2015, it was up by 9% at 12,540 sq. km. This is 30% of the nation’s land area, slightly less that the global average of 31%.
Globally forests are in decline. Since 1990 they shrank 3%, a modest figure that masks the real damage.
Planting timber plantations, something ecologists term monoculture forests, muted overall forest decline. The planting of these trees increased global forest area by 3%. This means since 1990, 6% of the world’s forests have been felled. And, most of it was irreplaceable tropical forest, biodiversity that cannot be replaced.
From 1990 to 2015, 2.5 million sq. km. of forest, mainly tropical, was cut down. Chainsaw champions: Brazil (21%), Indonesia (11%), Sudan (5%), Myanmar (4%), Nigeria (4%), Tanzania (4%), Zimbabwe (3%), Bolivia (3%), Congo (3%) and Argentina (3%), accounted for 62% of the destruction. 2.5 million sq. km. is 63 times the area of Switzerland or nearly 5 times the area of France.
Forests are mainly cut down for timber, to graze livestock or grow food for them. Harvesting wood for fuel and charcoal is another big forest menace, particularly in poorer places with expanding populations. In Indonesia, which has lost around 40% of its forests since the 1960s, palm oil is the main culprit – the country accounts for almost half of global output.
The Earth Policy Institute says there were 5.9 billion hectares of forest globally in the pre-industrial era. By 2015 there were only 4.0 billion, a drop of 32%. All this at a time when we need more trees to soak up the carbon emissions from an ever-expanding human population.
Timber tree planting champions: China (43%), the US (6%), South Sudan (6%), India (6%), Russia (5%), Vietnam (5%), Spain (4%), France (2%), Chile (2%) and Thailand (2%), were responsible for 80% of the 1.2 million sq. km. of new trees planted over the same period.
Nations with expanding forests cannot get off the hook for tropical forest destruction however. Much of the timber, animal feed, meat and palm oil they import comes from chainsaw-happy countries.
World Bank data
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