The Rainforests have long been called the ‘lungs’ of our planet: they exhale life-giving oxygen and inhale carbon dioxide. A study published in May of 2015 suggested that forests are at a bigger risk than ever before, directly contradicting reports earlier in the year that deforestation was slowing down.
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After analyzing over 5,000 HD satellite images taken between the 1990s and 2000s, geographers at the University of Maryland discovered that rainforest deforestation has accelerated by 62 percent during that time.
“If this trend continues, the vast tropical forests of today may soon be a relic of the past”
– Do-Hyung Kim, Lead Author
In 2010, the United Nations published a study saying deforestation rates were decreasing, but it turns out that study was based on unreliable data. In Brazil, a country hard-hit by deforestation, rates of deforestation has successfully declined before rising again this year. A monthly analysis of satellite images by the non-profit organization Imazon indicated that April 2015 saw double the rates of deforestation as the same time the previous year.
Experts suggest the increase in rates could be attributed to a weakening of forest protections, meaning more logging for roads, dams, and agriculture.
Deforestation, however, isn’t confined to the rainforests. In September, scientists analyzed global tree cover and found that, while there is a total population of 3 trillion trees on earth, the planet has lost roughly 46 percent of its forests since agriculture began roughly 12,000 years ago. The report estimates that 15 billion trees are logged every year. The study, led by Yale University, was designed to show “the overwhelming effect of humans across most of the world”
There’s 99 more stories from 2015. Check out the Best of 2015 series here