The destruction of rainforests remained widespread last year, according to new data from the University of Maryland reported by the World Resources Institute’s Global Forest Review.

Tree cover totalling 11.1M ha was lost in the tropics last year, according to the report.

The loss of 3.75M ha of tree cover in tropical primary rainforests – areas areas of critical importance for carbon storage and biodiversity – was of particular concern, the report said.

Over 40% of deforestation – a total of 1.5M ha – took place in Brazil last year and, as in previous years, persistent high rates continued in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where almost 500,000ha of primary forest was lost due to the expansion of small-scale agriculture and tree harvesting to meet energy demands.

Deforestation in Bolivia reached record levels last year at 291,000ha due to fires and large-scale agriculture.

In contrast, primary forest loss dropped in Indonesia for the fifth consecutive year, falling by 25% compared to 2020. New research showed that deforestation linked to palm oil is at a 20-year low with No Deforestation, No Peat and No Exploitation (NDPE) commitments now covering 83% of palm oil refining capacity in Indonesia and Malaysia. In addition, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil had tightened sustainable certification requirements in 2018 to prohibit deforestation and peatland clearing, the report said.

Outside the tropics, increasing deforestation in the Arctic region due to climate change was of concern, researchers said. While deforestation in boreal forest rarely resulted in permanent deforestation, the rate of loss reached record levels last year – a 29% increase compared to 2020.

Deforestation would need to decline at a much faster rate to meet 2030 zero-deforestation targets, the Global Forest Review wrote, and although Indonesia’s rapid decrease in primary forest loss should be acknowledged as a major achievement, achieving similar declines around the world would not be straightforward.