7.1% of Mountain Forests Lost in 23 Years, Says Report

A study published in the journal One Earth has revealed that 78.1 million hectares (7.1%) of mountain forest have been lost since 2000. The majority of this loss has occurred in areas of great tropical diversity, further increasing the pressure on threatened species. Mountain forests are home to over 85% of bird, mammal, and amphibian species and have seen increased exploitation as lowland areas are depleted or protected. Tropical montane forests experienced the greatest loss, followed by logging (42%), forest fires (29%), slash and burn crops (15%), and permanent or semi-permanent agriculture (10%). The rate of loss appears to be accelerating due to the rapid expansion of agriculture into montane areas of Southeast Asia.

One area that has been at the center of a legal and political dispute for 18 years is the Thomas van der Hammen Reserve in Colombia. The last redoubt of forests and wetlands located in the north of the capital of Colombia, this area is part of a much larger ecosystem that provides oxygen for the country. Despite being a protected area, the territory has been violated by builders and used as a dump. The reserve is at the center of a dispute between those in favor of reforestation and conservation and those committed to urbanization. The current mayor of Bogotá plans to cross the reserve with four highways and build 350,000 houses while promising to “enlarge the protected area.”

The fight for the last relic of nature in Bogotá is not unique. Mountain forests around the world are suffering from similar abuse, threatening threatened species and putting human livelihoods at risk. It is crucial to ensure that forest protection strategies and interventions take local conditions and contexts into account and reconcile the need to improve the protection of forests with that of guaranteeing food production and human well-being.

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