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2/02/2008

Rain forests fall at 'alarming' rate

Breaking Earth News
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An unidentified man sits next to a felled tree at the Afi mountain forest reserve near Ikom, Nigeria, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2007. From Brazil to central Africa to once-lush islands in Asia's archipelagos, human encroachment is shrinking the world's rain forests. (AP PhotoGeorge Osodi)

ABO EBAM, Nigeria - In the gloomy shade deep in Africa's rain forest, the noontime silence was pierced by the whine of a far-off chain saw. It was the sound of destruction, echoed from wood to wood, continent to continent, in the tropical belt that circles the globe.

From Brazil to central Africa to once-lush islands in Asia's archipelagos, human encroachment is shrinking the world's rain forests.

The alarm was sounded decades ago by environmentalists — and was little heeded. The picture, meanwhile, has changed: Africa is now a leader in destructiveness. The numbers have changed: U.N. specialists estimate 60 acres of tropical forest are felled worldwide every minute, up from 50 a generation back. And the fears have changed.

Experts still warn of extinction of animal and plant life, of the loss of forest peoples' livelihoods, of soil erosion and other damage. But scientists today worry urgently about something else: the fateful feedback link of trees and climate.

Global warming is expected to dry up and kill off vast tracts of rain forest, and dying forests will feed global warming.
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