An area the size of more than ten times the size of the Netherlands was deforested between 2004 and 2017, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reports Wednesday in a report. It concerns a total of 43 million hectares of nature in Asia, Africa, Oceania and Latin America. According to the WWF, the tropical forests have mainly disappeared to make room for agriculture.
“It is almost impossible to imagine that an area ten times the size of the Netherlands has been cleared for agriculture,” says WWF forest expert Merijn van Leeuwen.
The WWF distinguishes 24 places where forests and nature are threatened. Nine of these are in Latin America, eight in Africa, six in Asia and one in Oceania. The report continues on a WWF report from 2015, when 11 more hotspots were identified.
Deforestation is particularly rapid in the Amazon in Brazil and Bolivia. Paraguay, Argentina, Madagascar, Sumatra (Indonesia) and the island of Borneo (Indonesia and Malaysia) are also high on the list.
European countries are indirectly responsible for deforestation on other continents, according to WWF. One of the main causes of deforestation is demand in the West for agricultural products such as palm oil, soy for animal feed and cocoa. “We must be able to do our shopping in the knowledge that deforestation has not been done for this,” says Van Leeuwen.
WWF wants international legislation against deforestation
For that reason, the WWF argues in the report for international legislation to tackle deforestation. The nature organization also calls on consumers to eat plant-based food more often and encourages companies to become more sustainable.
Protecting tropical forests is seen as necessary to prevent further global warming.
Deforestation also has direct consequences for nature and animals. In the Amazon in South America, for example, a decline in wild animals is visible. In Indonesia and Malaysia, deforestation is shrinking the habitats of endangered species such as tigers and elephants.