Indiscriminate logging causes severe damage to biodiversity, climate and human health.

What is meant by deforestation?

It is helpful to clarify a few concepts: deforestation, logging, and forest degradation. 

The term “logging” refers to the removal of trees and plants. This can range from management activities, such as cutting down diseased plants or weed species to encourage soil regeneration, to destroying portions of forests or forest areas for different uses. 

Differently, the concept of “deforestation” always has a negative connotation; we speak of deforestation when the removal of tree cover exceeds the ability of forests to regenerate, with more severe and lasting environmental effects. 

Deforestation involves the removal or destruction of large forest areas, mainly due to human activities that put the land to other uses, for example, to meet commercial purposes such as expanding arable land for monoculture. 

Forest degradation,” on the other hand, describes a gradual decline in forest functions caused by unsustainable harvesting that depletes forest benefits such as timber and biodiversity.

 

Why is deforestation a problem?

Forests account for 31 per cent of the Earth’s land area and are essential for environmental and social sustainability. They are home to 80 per cent of the terrestrial plant, animal, and insect species and serve as important carbon sinks through photosynthesis. These ecosystems convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, purifying the air and mitigating global warming. They are critical to about 1.6 billion people, including many indigenous communities, who depend on forests for food, medicine, and energy. 

Forests also provide other crucial ecosystem services, such as water purification and pollination, and contribute to the cultural heritage of local communities. Therefore, their loss implies the loss of these services, with widespread repercussions that touch the environmental, economic, social, and human health spheres.

Consequences of deforestation 

Indiscriminate and unregulated logging causes severe damage to biodiversity, climate and human health. Deforestation not only results in the loss of habitat for millions of species but also adversely affects the environment by changing hydrological cycles, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, and destroying ecosystems. 

These changes also threaten the survival and well-being of communities that depend on these environments, breaking a vital balance between humans and nature.

 

Consequences of deforestation 

Indiscriminate and unregulated logging causes severe damage to biodiversity, climate and human health. Deforestation not only results in the loss of habitat for millions of species but also adversely affects the environment by changing hydrological cycles, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, and destroying ecosystems. 

These changes also threaten the survival and well-being of communities that depend on these environments, breaking a vital balance between humans and nature.

Deforestation around the world 

According to data from the Word Resource Institute and Global Forest Watch in Forest Pulse: The Latest on the World’s Forests, in 2023, the total loss of primary tropical forests was 3.7 million hectares. This figure represents a 9 per cent decrease from 2022, but the loss frequency remains comparable to previous years. 

In 2023, the geographic areas most affected by deforestation include Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia, Laos, Nicaragua, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Indonesia. In 2023, Brazil and Colombia experienced significant reductions in primary forest loss by 36 per cent and 49 per cent, respectively. However, these reductions were countered by substantial increases in forest loss in other countries on the continent, such as Bolivia, Laos, and Nicaragua, due to fires and agricultural expansion. In particular, Bolivia saw the highest rate of primary forest loss on record, with agriculture and fires as the leading causes. 

In Asia, Indonesia experienced a 27 per cent increase in primary forest loss, mainly due to the expansion of industrial plantations, especially oil palm and pulpwood, and El Niño-related fires. 

Congo has also continued to lose primary forests, mainly due to shifting cultivation and charcoal production. These deforestation hotspots significantly challenge global biodiversity, climate, and local forest-dependent communities.

Deforestation in Italy

Forests cover over a third (36.7 per cent) of Italy’s land area, covering 11,054,458 hectares. Over the past decade, this area has grown by 20 per cent, and the total volume of trees in Italian forests now exceeds 1.5 billion cubic meters. 

The “National Inventory of Forests and Forest Carbon Sinks,” carried out by the Carabinieri Corps with the support of Crea, also shows a significant increase in carbon stock: from 490 million tons in 2005 to 569 million tons today, which is equivalent to an increase of 290 million tons of stored CO2.

These data, which refer to 2015 and were collected between 2013 and 2020, reflect a positive trend for the environment due to forests’ ability to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

However, in Italy, nearly 170,000 hectares of forest were destroyed by fire in 2021, a phenomenon exacerbated by climate change. High temperatures and drought facilitate the work of arsonists. 

This figure emerges from Coldiretti’s analysis of the Cop 26 agreement to halt deforestation by 2030, using statistics from the European Forest Fire Information System (Effis). Coldiretti points out that the current frequency of extreme weather events and the rapid alternation between bad weather and drought increase the risk of forest fires. 

The organization also criticizes the lack of adequate forest prevention and management, describing Italian forests as neglected and impenetrable areas that now cover more than a third of the national territory. 

Imported deforestation: the situation in Italy and the EU

Italy also faces “imported” deforestation due to domestic consumption of products such as meat, soy, coffee, and cocoa, which contributes to the annual loss of 36,000 hectares of forests in other countries. 

This makes Italy a major European contributor to global deforestation, second only to Germany. Although Europe’s forested areas are protected and growing, the EU is involved in trade that promotes deforestation. The EU is responsible for 16 per cent of global forest loss, ranking behind only China.

In response to this issue, in 2020, more than one million European citizens supported the “Together4forests” petition to promote the adoption of a European law against deforestation. This culminated in the EUDR Regulation (EU Regulation 2023/1115), which replaces the current EUTR Regulation and extends the scope to include products that can cause deforestation or forest degradation, such as wood, coffee, cocoa, rubber, cattle, soybeans, and oil palm.

What can be done to reduce deforestation?

To stop deforestation, governments must do their part by adopting ambitious forest conservation policies based on the latest science. In many parts of the world, ineffective or corrupt governments exacerbate the situation by allowing illegal logging and other crimes.

Second, preserving forests through conscious and sustainable daily choices is possible. Decreasing consumption, avoiding single-use packaging, and preferring foods from sustainable agricultural practices-for example, buying from local farmers who use environmentally friendly farming methods helps reduce the demand for land obtained from deforestation. In addition, by choosing recycled or responsibly produced wood products, a forest-friendly economy is supported. Participating in and promoting reforestation initiatives locally or internationally motivates more people to join efforts for positive change.

The role of companies in combating deforestation

Companies have the power to destroy forests, but they also have the ability to help save them: they can make a difference by introducing “zero deforestation” policies.

At Etifor, we support companies in finding the best strategy for sustainable sourcing of their products to ensure that the supply chain is not associated with deforestation and complies with the rights of workers, indigenous peoples and local communities.