Tropical deforestation is actually increasing according to UMD study

Tropical deforestation is actually increasing according to new study carried out by UMD.  It has found that the rate of deforestation in the humid tropics, including rainforests of critical biomass and biodiversity, has accelerated drastically throughout the past decade, contradicting previous beliefs that the situation was improving.

Using satellite data, a university study announced today and published in Geophysical Research Letters, found forests in the humid tropics — areas near the equator in South America, Africa and Asia ­­­— shrunk at a faster rate in the 2000s than they did in the 1990s. Previous data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization suggested the rate decelerated by 25 percent throughout the past decade.


“Our results show the opposite,” said Do-Hyung Kim, a remote sensing scientist for the geographical sciences department and the lead author of the study. “Our results show the acceleration of the deforestation by 62 percent.”


Kim, a geographical sciences doctoral candidate at this university, said this new NASA-funded study could better reveal the reality of deforestation.


“Our findings will greatly enhance our ability to evaluate the efficacy of policies and to infer the driving forces of deforestation,” Kim said.


Kim said he and his colleagues could compare this deforestation data with policies in place to see which methods of tree protection produce better results.


Kim said they couldn’t be sure why these research results were so different from those in the previous Food and Agriculture Organization research but said they used a consistent definition of forestland and found a clear acceleration of data from 1990 to 2000, and the data from 2000 to 2010.


Though deforestation has accelerated in the past decade as a whole, the study found some

slight deceleration in the years after 2005, Kim said. Though forests are still depleting fast, he said, the deceleration could be a sign for some hope that policies can further slow the forest decline.


“I want these results to encourage people to care more about the increase in deforestation,” he said.