Rainforests have been called “the lungs of the
planet.” They breathe out life-giving oxygen and
absorb carbon dioxide, limiting global warming.
A study published in May suggests these forests are
more at risk than ever, contradicting earlier reports of a
slowdown in deforestation.
Analyzing more than 5,000 high-resolution satellite
images from the 1990s and 2000s, geographers at the
University of Maryland discovered that rainforest loss
accelerated by 62 percent during those two decades.
“If this trend continues,” lead author Do-Hyung Kim
warns, “the vast tropical forests of today may soon be a
relic of the past.”
A 2010 United Nations report said deforestation rates
were decreasing, but it turns out that analysis was based
in part on unreliable government data. Even in Brazil,
which succeeded in slowing deforestation for a
decade, forest loss is again on the rise. For
example, a monthly analysis of satellite
images by the Brazilian nonprofit Imazon
shows that in April 2015, more than
twice as much forest had been cleared
compared with the same month the