A sharp rise in deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest drew global concern this week, spotlighting the environmental impact of the loss of huge swathes of forest around the world. Much of forest is burned to create land for cattle ranching and soybean production. 

The world lost 12 million hectares (30 million acres) of tropical tree cover – equal to 30 football pitches a minute – last year, researchers from Global Forest Watch found. That has major implications for climate change as forests absorb about a third of the planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions produced globally.

Here are five deforestation hotspots to watch:

1. INDONESIA – The country has the world’s third-largest total area of tropical forest and environmentalists say much of the forest destruction is due to oil-palm plantations. The $60-billion global trade in palm oil – a widely used edible oil, found in everything from margarine to lipstick – has faced scrutiny from green activists who have blamed its production for forest loss and fires.

2. ROMANIA – Thousands of Romanians marched in Bucharest this month to protest widespread illegal logging, which protesters say they believe led to the deaths of two forest workers. Marchers demanded criminal investigations into deaths and attacks on forest workers. Romania loses between 3 and 9 hectares of per hour to illegal logging.

3. GABON – The Central African country came under scrutiny last year after the disappearance of hundreds of containers of illegally logged kevazingo, a valuable hardwood that is popular in Asia. The government has banned raw wood experts, enlarged protected areas and will receive $10 from Norway to help protect its carbon-absorbing tropical forest.

4. MALAYSIA – Together with neighbouring Indonesia, Malaysia accounts for 85% of global palm oil output. The industry is often blamed in the country for stripping tropical rainforests along with cattle ranching and soybean production. Earlier this year the European Union passed a law to phase out palm oil from renewable fuels by 2030 due to global deforestation concerns. The Malaysian Pm has however rejected the link.

5. BRAZIL – Government data showed deforestation in the Amazon region rose by nearly 30% in the 12 months to July, the highest level since 2008, confirming a sharp increase under the leadership of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro. The Amazon is the world’s largest tropical rainforest and is considered key to the fight against climate change because of the vast amounts of carbon dioxide it absorbs. Widespread forest fires in the Amazon sparked global outcry. Wildfires are common in the dry season in Brazil but are also deliberately set by farmers illegally deforesting land for cattle ranching and for planting soy.

*Sources: Greenpeace, Global Forest Watch, Brazil’s INPE space research agency.

Original article: http://news.trust.org