Published on 14 June 2021
While both deforestation and forest degradation are damaging to forest health, there is a difference between the two. Deforestation occurs when forests are cleared and converted completely. When forests are degraded, their health declines and they lose their capacity to support wildlife and people.
Forests play a crucial role in Earth’s carbon cycle by absorbing and storing large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, keeping our planet cool. However, forest degradation and deforestation, particularly in the tropical regions, are causing much of this stored carbon to be released back into the atmosphere, exacerbating climate change.
This image captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission shows the forest fires close to the Brazilian-Bolivian border. The image was acquired on 14 August 2020, at the peak of last year’s fire season.
Source: ESA Observing the Earth
A recent study, published in Nature Climate Change, investigated the dynamics of forest carbon in the Brazilian Amazon from 2010–2019. The authors estimated that the Brazilian Amazon experienced a cumulative gross loss of 4.45 Pg C against a gross gain of 3.78 Pg C – resulting in a net loss of 0.67 Pg C of above ground biomass over the last decade.