Forests covering an area roughly the size of the Philippines were cut down or burned to make way for farms from the Amazon Basin to the heart of Africa during 2017, according to an independent forest-monitoring organization.

Global Forest Watch said tropical forests were felled at a rate equivalent to 40 soccer fields per minute last year. The greatest tree losses occurred in Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Madagascar and Malaysia.

Norway’s environment minister described the losses to Reuters as “catastrophic” and a threat to efforts to slow global warming.

Trees soak up the greenhouse gas CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow, but release it back into the air when they burn or decay.

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