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Thu May 2, 2013, 06:44 AM

Greater Mekong countries 'lost one-third of forest cover in 40 years'


Aerial of trees forming small peninsulas within a large river system of the Mekong river in Cambodia. Photograph: Adam Oswell/WWF-Greater Mekong

Five Asian countries have lost nearly one-third of their forests in the last 35 years and could be left with little more than 10-20% of their original cover by 2030 with devastating effects on wildlife and humans, a new report suggests.

Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam have lost nearly 40m hectares (ha) of forest cover since 1980 but have retained about 98m ha of natural forest, just over half of the region's land area.

Using satellite data, the WWF researchers calculated that since 1980, Cambodia has lost 22% of its 1973 forest cover, Laos and Burma 24%, and Thailand and Vietnam 43%.

The report on ecosystems in the greater Mekong area warns that these countries risk losing more than one-third of their remaining forest cover within the next two decades if they fail to increase protection.

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