Mountain forests are being lost at an accelerating rate, putting biodiversity at risk

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Mountain forests, which host over 85% of the world’s bird, mammal, and amphibian species, are being lost at an accelerating rate, according to a study published in the journal One Earth. Since 2000, over 78 million hectares (7.1%) of mountain forest have been lost globally, an area greater than the size of Texas. Much of the deforestation has occurred in tropical biodiversity hotspots, putting at risk increasing numbers of threatened species. Logging has been the principal driver of mountain forest loss (42%), followed by wildfires (29%) and shifting cultivation (15%). The rate of loss appears to be accelerating, increasing by 50% between 2001-2009 and 2010-2018. The loss has been driven by agriculture expansion into highland areas in mainland Southeast Asia and an increase in logging due to depletion and protection of lowland forests. Tropical mountain forests experienced the most significant loss (42%) and the fastest acceleration rate, but also had a faster rate of regrowth compared to mountain forests in temperate and boreal regions. Protected areas experienced less forest loss than unprotected regions, but the integrity of the forest needs to be maintained to preserve biodiversity.

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