2. Earth lost a staggering amount of trees in 2017
Last year saw the second-largest tropical tree cover loss on record since 1999, in large part because of human-caused fires in the Amazon, a new analysis from the World Resources Institute and University of Maryland found.
What it means: Trees absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide, preventing even more global warming. Losing tree cover means there's the potential for accelerating warming, as well as a range of other effects, including damage to biodiversity, the loss of livelihoods for indigenous populations and greater susceptibility of the tropics to drought.
What they found: Using satellite data, the team found the tropics lost 15.8 million hectares, or 39 million acres, of tree cover in 2017. It's the equivalent of losing 40 footballs fields of trees a day for an entire year, researchers found.
Keep in mind: Tree cover loss is not the same as deforestation. Instead, it means the removal of tree canopy due to human and natural causes, and includes trees in plantations as well as natural forests.
Yes, but: The biggest contributor to forest cover loss is the clearing of forests for agriculture and other human uses.
- Brazil was by far the greatest contributor to tree cover loss in tropical countries. There were 4.52 million hectares lost.
- According to WRI and the University of Maryland report, the Amazon had more fires in 2017 than any other year since such monitoring began in 1999.
- Tree cover loss in the Democratic Republic of Congo reached a record high in 2017, up by 6% over 2016.
Go deeper: Read the whole story in the Axios stream.