The tropics lost 12 million hectares of tree cover in 2018, the fourth-highest annual loss since record-keeping began in 2001. Of greatest concern is the disappearance of 3.6 million hectares of primary rainforest, an area the size of Belgium. The figures come from updated data from the University of Maryland, released today on Global Forest Watch.
Old growth, or “primary” tropical rainforests, are a crucially important forest ecosystem, containing trees that can be hundreds or even thousands of years old. They store more carbon than other forests and are irreplaceable when it comes to sustaining biodiversity. Primary rainforests provide habitat for animals ranging from orangutans and mountain gorillas to jaguars and tigers. Once these forests are cut down, they may never return to their original state.