Forest the size of France regrown globally in 20 years

But deforestation is working just as quickly.
But deforestation is working just as quickly. Photo credit: Getty Images

A new study suggests an area of forest the size of France has regrown over the past twenty years - enough to soak up more carbon emissions than the US makes in a year.

The study suggests over the past 20 years 59 million hectares of forest has regrown globally with minimal human intervention.

Major hotspots include parts of Brazil's Atlantic Forest, areas in northern Canada, central Africa and Mongolia's northern wilderness.

The restored forests are able to soak up about 5.9 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide, according to the analysis by Trillion Trees - a joint venture between Birdlife International, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the WWF.

The organisation is aiming to protect and restore one trillion trees by 2050.

William Baldwin-Cantello of WWF said natural forest regeneration is often "cheaper, richer in carbon and better for biodiversity than actively planted forests".

But he said regeneration cannot be taken for granted - "to avoid dangerous climate change we must both halt deforestation and restore natural forests".

"Deforestation still claims millions of hectares every year, vastly more than is regenerated."

The Guardian reports deforestation sparked sharply in 2020, with huge losses of tropical rainforests.

In the Amazon, trees are being felled and burned at a shocking rate - more than 174,014 acres have already been lost in 2021. Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro has come under increasing international pressure over such deforestation - pressure which seems to be taking effect. 

In April Bolsonaro pledged to achieve emissions neutrality by 2050 in response to US President Joe Biden's demands for stronger climate action.