According to a report, around 3.7 million hectares (37,000 square kilometers) of tropical jungle were destroyed worldwide last year. That is around 400,000 hectares less than in 2022, as the World Resources Institute (WRI) in Washington announced. Nevertheless, the forest area lost is larger than North Rhine-Westphalia (35,000 square kilometers). The decline is partly due to fires, but mainly to other developments, particularly deforestation.

“The world has taken two steps forward and two steps back when it comes to last year’s forest losses,” said Mikaela Weisse of the environmental organization Global Forest Watch, according to a statement. 3.7 million hectares in 2023 – the number is almost identical to the forest loss in 2019 and 2021. Over the past two decades, the world has lost three to four million hectares of tropical forest every year, according to the WRI.

Ten football fields per minute

The equivalent of trees the size of ten football fields disappeared every minute last year. In Brazil, the loss decreased significantly in 2023, but according to the report it is still the country with the greatest forest loss. Colombia has almost halved its forest loss compared to the previous year, it said. “Sharp declines in the Brazilian Amazon and Colombia show that progress is possible,” said Weisse. “But increasing forest loss in other areas has largely reversed this progress.” Forest decline was particularly severe in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bolivia and Indonesia.

Major forest loss in Canada

With a view to global developments – including beyond the tropics – Canada surprisingly appears prominently. Forest loss there was three times higher than in other recorded years. The reason: In 2023, five times more trees were destroyed by fires than in the previous year.

Virgin forest, i.e. forest that is largely untouched by humans, is of great importance for the preservation of biodiversity and for the storage of carbon dioxide (CO2). With the help of the Global Forest Watch platform, numerous environmental organizations led by the WRI have been monitoring changes in forest areas worldwide since 2014, using satellite technology, among other things. The WRI compiled the report based on this annually together with researchers from the US University of Maryland.