From 1990 to 2020, the world has lost 420 million hectares of forestland – an area roughly 10 times the area of the US state of California, and nearly five times larger than the size of the country of Turkiye.
Doganay Tolunay, a climatologist and ecologist at Istanbul University, spoke to Anadolu Agency about the significance of protecting forestland and the critical role forests play in fighting climate change.
The total area of land lost through deforestation across the world in the last three decades stands at around 420 million hectares, Tolunay said, explaining: "Turkiye has an area of 78 million hectares. Over 30 years forestland totaling nearly five times the territory of Turkiye has disappeared. This corresponds to roughly over 10 million hectares annually.”
Forests carry critical importance, serving as natural carbon sinks to stem climate change as trees help reduce global warming by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, while on the other hand deforestation accelerates climate change and harms biodiversity.
Tolunay said deforestation happens for various reasons, for instance “to gain new agricultural and animal husbandry areas. The (native) trees in forests are cut down to use the land to plant palm trees, cocoa trees, or the areas are turned into animal farms."
He added: “Another reason is that there are mines in these areas. Mining activities seriously damage forests, especially in Africa. Also, trees in tropical forests are very valuable, bringing a lot of money to the market. So particularly underdeveloped countries use forests for this type of income.”
Tolunay also stressed that most of this loss of forestland was seen in tropical rainforests, which are the world’s most important ecosystems, especially the rainforests in Africa and South America.
Noting the rise in extreme weather events due to climate change, he said natural ecosystems help prevent disasters such as floods, droughts, and hail.