Nearly 9.3 million hectares of forest destroyed by wildfires in 2021

Nearly 9.3 million hectares of forest destroyed by wildfires in 2021
Wildfire in Portugal in 2016. Credit: Michael Held at Unsplash

Last year, forest fires destroyed 9.26 million hectares of land globally — up from 2.52 million 20 years earlier — including 928 hectares in Belgium, recent research has shown.

The amount of forest destroyed as a result of the climate change disaster was also 7 million hectares more than in 2001, according to data from the Global Forest Watch (GFW), the World Resources Institute (WRI) and a University of Maryland research.

The WRI stated that global warming is to blame for this increase. So far, the number of hectares lost has risen by 4% on average each year, resulting in massive emissions of greenhouse gases that further exacerbate climate change, contributing to the vicious cycle that causes the fires in the first place.

Fires in Lussas, Lavilledieu and Vogüé: situation update Credit: Préfet de l'Ardèche

This figure will only go up as the likelihood of intense heat waves, which dry up the woods, increased by five in the last 150 years. The recent fires in Southern Europe, which saw France experience a record number of burnt areas in July, will also result in this figure rising.

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The boreal forest, a biome characterised by coniferous forests consisting mostly of pines, accounts for over 70% of the land lost in the last two decades. These woods, found in Alaska, Russia, Canada, and Scandinavia create one of the world's greatest carbon reserves.

These latest figures are further adding urgency to the call from scientists for governments to improve forest protection and put a halt to deforestation.

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