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Forests Are Vanishing More Slowly, But Not Slowly Enough

A United Nations report says Africa and South America lost the most trees in the past decade, but the data don’t show the whole picture.

Smoke rises as fires burn in the Amazon rainforest in Porto Velho, Brazil, on Aug. 24, 2019.

Smoke rises as fires burn in the Amazon rainforest in Porto Velho, Brazil, on Aug. 24, 2019.

Photographer: Leonardo Carrato/Bloomberg

The world’s total forest area is decreasing more slowly than in past years, according to new data from the United Nations. But the numbers fail to show the bigger, darker picture.

The planet has lost 178 million hectares of forest since 1990, an area roughly the size of Libya. The rate of loss, however, has decreased “substantially” over the last decade due to a combination of slower deforestation, forest planting and natural forest expansion.