Full-grown, carbon-rich tropical forests continue to be lost at an alarming rate due to climate change, according to satellite data.
According to that study, the tropics lost 11.9 million hectares of tree cover in 2019.
Nearly a third of that loss, 3.8 million hectares, occurred within humid tropical primary forests, areas of mature rainforest that are especially important for biodiversity and carbon storage. That’s the equivalent of losing a football pitch of primary forest every 6 seconds for the entire year.
Primary forest loss was 2.8% higher in 2019 than the previous year. In addition, it has remained obstinately soaring for the last two decades even with efforts to stop deforestation.
At least 1.8 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions are connected with 2019 primary forest loss, comparable to the annual emissions of 400 million cars.
Though the rate of primary forest loss was lower in 2019 than record years of 2016 and 2017, it was still the third-highest since the turn of the century.
The study found, 3.8 million in older, primary forest areas – the third-highest loss of primary trees since 2000 and a slight increase in 2018.
“The level of forest loss in 2019 is intolerable and that we actually already know how to turn it around,” Frances Seymour, from the World Resources Institute, said.
“But if governments slow down restrictions on burning, that they intend to open up indigenous territories for commercial exploration, forest loss goes up.”
Brazil reported for a third of it, its worst loss in 13 years apart from huge spikes in 2016 and 2017 from fires.
However, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo both managed to reduce tree loss.
In the meantime, Australia got a six-fold rise in total tree loss, following dramatic wildfires late in 2019.
As well as storing massive amounts of carbon, primary, tropical rainforests, where trees can be hundreds or even thousands of years old, are home to species such as orangutans and tigers.
“We also noted several new hotspots of primary forest loss within indigenous territories, especially in the state of Pará that were linked to land grabbing and to mining,” said Mikaela Weisse, from Global Forest Watch.
“These incursions are specifically troublesome for the indigenous peoples have been some of the best conservers of forests in Brazil and around the world.”
Indonesia, so far, got losses to remain at historically low levels for the third consecutive years, thanks to its strong government action.
Climate change predictions to determine the impact on tigers
The combination of climate change and sea-level rise will lead to the total loss of Bengal tiger habitats in the area.
However, important factors linked to this decline are rainfall in the summer season, vegetation (mangrove species) and maximum temperature of the warmest month.
The reason could be the control of Ceriops Decandra species of mangroves in this border stretch where salinity is relatively higher than the rest of the Sundarbans. Climate change would drive a tree species shift and also trigger extreme weather events adding to the effects of sea-level rise.
Health decline of Sundari trees in Sundarbans
However, there is no significant decline in the number of mangroves in the Sundarbans for the last 30 years. However, there is evidence of a 25% health decline of the mangrove trees. And, it is due to the effect of increased salinity on Sundari tree. But the continuing effects of climate change could critically hamper its ability to reborn.
Most significantly, the ‘top-dying disease’ is the reason for declining 15% of trees in the Sundarbans since the 80s.
The expert said, the increase of saline water is the key reason, and this is happening in the Sundarbans.
Unfavourably, the Sundari tree is less tolerant of high salinity levels than other mangrove species. It has previously been identified as suffering from die-back due to rising salinity.
The government of Bangladesh should prioritise tiger conservation by designating more areas for tiger conservation, create corridors for transboundary tiger movements.
The fate of the tiger will be the same in entire Sundarbans if the governments don’t take necessary action to conserve and allow more areas dedicated for tiger conservation. Transboundary conservation measures by the Bangladesh and Indian governments are urgent.
Zulker Naeen is a South Asia Fellow at Climate Tracker and freelance climate journalist from Bangladesh. He has three years of experience in the field. Zulker developed all his courses with the support of other experienced Climate Tracker staff credited on the course landing page.
As a young climate advocate, his fellowship aims to share knowledge of climate change. Climate Tracker is a global media network closely works on Climate Change.