In the past 60 years, the forest area worldwide has shrunk considerably: At the same time as the world population is growing, the forest area per capita has decreased by almost two thirds. This is reported by a team led by Ronald Estoque from the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute (FFPRI) in Tsukuba, Japan. The results of the research group have now been published in the journal “Environmental Research Letters”.
Estoque’s team analyzed global land use datasets collected between 1960 and 2019. It showed that 437.3 million hectares of forest had been lost and 355.6 million hectares had been added during this period. A total of 81.7 million hectares of forest disappeared – an area larger than the entire island of Borneo. From 1.4 hectares of forest per person 60 years ago, the figure has shrunk to 0.5 hectares in 2019. Middle- and low-income nations have seen the largest declines. In contrast, the highest-income regions of the world were able to gain the most forest area. The results thus support the “Forest Transition” theory, according to which the changes in forest areas are closely related to the socio-economic development of a country.
According to Estoque and his team, it is now up to high-income nations to import fewer goods from tropical regions, for which trees are cut down. At the same time, low-income countries should be supported in preserving their mostly tropical forest areas.