There are positives and negatives to grasp from a new report on forest loss from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization. The good news: The rate of deforestation worldwide has been halved over the last 25 years. The bad news: We lost 500,000 square miles of forest—an area twice the size of Texas, or equal to 1% of the planet's land area—in that time, reports the Washington Post. The BBC reports the losses were mostly in Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America, which lost 3.5 million hectares annually from 1990 to 2000. However, just 2.1 million hectares have been lost in South America annually since 2010. "Even though, globally, the extent of the world's forest continues to decline...the rate of net forest loss has been cut by over 50%," the report states, per the Guardian. Just 0.08% of forests are now disappearing annually, down from 0.18% in the 1990s.
"The direction of change is positive" but this trend "needs to be strengthened, especially in the countries that are lagging behind," FAO's director general says. Climate change is still a major concern as deforestation has released an average of 2.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year from 1990; total carbon emissions in 2014 reached 32.3 billion tons. Climate change also raises the risk of droughts and fires, which further harm forests. Should we let off conservation efforts, we could lose 170 million hectares in 20 years, according to the World Wildlife Fund. "Fundamental changes in how we think about forests are needed. And they are needed in the next few years," a rep says. "Otherwise, we will continue to lose forests at a rate of eight football fields every 10 seconds." (The planet has only half as many trees as when humans began farming.)