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Forest Loss Pushes Far Beyond Plantation Boundaries in South America, Africa

Which of the world’s forests are natural, and which have been planted by humans?

27th January 2016

It seems like a simple question, but researchers have been struggling to answer it for years. Satellites can’t easily distinguish between primary and secondary forests, which occur naturally, and planted forests, which are created and managed by people to supply timber, rubber and other commodities. And few countries provide accurate maps of plantation locations.

But we’re getting closer. Researchers from Global Forest Watch and Transparent World recently mapped tree plantations in seven heavily forested nations, and found that in most of the countries, more than 90 percent of tree cover loss is occurring within natural forests. That’s a problem since natural forests, especially those in the tropics, provide much greater climate, water and biodiversity benefits over planted landscapes.

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