Cambodia has one of the worst deforestation rates in the world. Since 1970, Cambodia's primary rainforest cover went from over 70 percent in 1970 to 3.1 percent today. Worse, Cambodia's deforestation has been accelerating over the past decade, largely a product of industrial plantation expansion, logging, and conversion for agriculture.
According to research led by Matthew Hansen of the University of Maryland, just over 40 percent of Cambodia is densely forested. The country's deforestation of roughly one percent a year between 2000 and 2012 gives it the fourth highest deforestation rate among major forest countries.
Cambodia is home to more than 521 species of birds, 127 mammals, and 116 reptiles.
Historical drivers of deforestation
|Total forest area||Dense forest area||Forest gain||Forest loss||Total land area|
|>10% tree cover (ha)||% total land cover||>50% tree cover (ha)||% total land cover||2001-2012 (ha)||% total forest cover||2001-2012 (ha)||% total forest cover||(ha)|
|Krong Preah Sihanouk||89728||64.4%||79709||57.2%||68525||76.4%||15906||17.7%||139337|
The civil war —which ran from the 1970s to the mid 1990s—is responsible for setting the stage for illegal logging. During the conflict, each warring faction financed fighting through timber sales. According to the Trade and Environment Database (TED), the Cambodian government exported mostly to Japan and Vietnam, while the three guerrilla groups (including the Khmer Rouge) sent logs to Thailand. Thai timber companies—often with the involvement of military officials— were found to be actively engaged in logging of forests along the Cambodian border.
During the 1990s, illegal logging was so widespread in Cambodia that the IMF canceled a $120 million loan and the World Bank suspended direct aid to the government until the corruption in the forestry sector was resolved. In response, the government moved to crack down on logging operations while issuing bans on unprocessed log exports and imports of logging equipment. The actions appear to have had little effect: between 2000 and 2005, Cambodia lost nearly 30 percent of its primary forest cover.
Deforestation in Cambodia also results from subsistence activities, notably the collection of fuelwood and clearing for agriculture. The hunting of wildlife as bushmeat is widespread in the country, while mining for gold, bauxite, and iron is increasingly a threat to Cambodia's forests as well. The government has recently introduced stricter legislation to govern small miners, including environmental provisions.
While the Cambodian government has struggled to enforce environmental regulations in the face of corruption and illegal activities, it has shown interest in reducing deforestation and setting up protected areas. On paper, more than 20 percent of Cambodia is under some form of protection, including the spectacular ruins of Ankor, which cover over some 400 square kilometers and are one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia. However, even this World Heritage site is threatened by unrestrained tourism, experienced rapid hotel development in the early to mid 2000s.
Charts showing forest data and deforestation in Cambodia
Chart: aggregate forest loss in Cambodia
Forest loss by province in Cambodia
Annual forest loss by province in Cambodia
Cambodia forest cover by province
Cambodia forest cover
Pictures of Cambodia
| Cambodia news updates
Proposed border checkpoint and road threaten critical Cambodian forest and wildlife
||Cambodia Forest Figures
Total forest area: 10,447,000 ha
% of land area: 59.2%
Primary forest cover: 322,000 ha
% of land area: 1.8%
% total forest area: 3.1%
Deforestation Rates, 2000-2005
Annual change in forest cover: -218,800 ha
Annual deforestation rate: -2.0%
Change in defor. rate since '90s: 74.7%
Total forest loss since 1990: -2,499,000 ha
Total forest loss since 1990:-19.3%
Primary or "Old-growth" forests
Annual loss of primary forests: -26800 ha
Annual deforestation rate: -5.9%
Change in deforestation rate since '90s: 45.2%
Primary forest loss since 1990: -334,000 ha
Primary forest loss since 1990:-84.1%
Social services: 0.9%
Multiple purpose: 3.9%
None or unknown: 37.8
Forest Area Breakdown
Total area: 10,447,000 ha
Primary: 122,000 ha
Modified natural: 10,266,000 ha
Production plantation: 59,000 ha
Production plantation: n/a
Plantations, 2005: 59,000 ha
% of total forest cover: 0.6%
Annual change rate (00-05): -2,600,000 ha
Above-ground biomass: 1,904 M t
Below-ground biomass: 628 M t
Area annually affected by
Number of tree species in IUCN red list
Number of native tree species: 862
Critically endangered: 10
Wood removal 2005
Industrial roundwood: n/a
Wood fuel: n/a
Value of forest products, 2005
Industrial roundwood: n/a
Wood fuel: n/a
Non-wood forest products (NWFPs): $21,586,000
Total Value: $21,586,000
More forest statistics for Cambodia
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Activist deported from Cambodia continues fighting dam from abroad
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New wormy amphibians discovered in Southeast Asia
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Cambodia deports activist leader...then suspends controversial dam
On Monday, Cambodia deported well-known environmental activist, Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, back to his native Spain. Co-founder of the Cambodian NGO, Mother Nature, Gonzalez-Davidson played a vital role in blocking efforts to build the Cheay Areng Dam. But a day after deporting the activist, Cambodia's Prime Minister, Hun Sen, said the country would postpone the dam until 2018.
Rainforest loss increased in the 2000s, concludes new analysis
Loss of tropical forests accelerated roughly 60 percent during the 2000s, argues a paper published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The findings contradict previous research suggesting that deforestation slowed since the 1990s. The study is based on a map of 1990 forest cover developed last year by Do-Hyung Kim and colleagues from the University of Maryland. The map, which includes 34 countries that contain 80 percent of the world's tropical forests, enabled the researchers to establish a consistent baseline for tracking forest cover change across regions and countries over time.
Shifting the way the world shops (commentary)
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Saving Asia's other endangered cats (photos)
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Another environmental journalist killed in Cambodia
Another Cambodian journalist has been gunned down while investigating illegal logging by state officials.
NASA: Forest loss leaps in Bolivia, Mekong region
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Is the banteng making a comeback? Researchers find new population in Cambodia
Researchers have discovered a new population of banteng, a species of wild cattle, in northwestern Cambodia. The discovery was announced June 4, 2014 by Fauna and Flora International (FFI), and efforts are underway to implement conservation initiatives to protect the area and its newfound banteng, which are listed as Endangered by the IUCN.
Researchers discover new species of wolf snake in Cambodia, name it after an Australian zoo
A new species of wolf snake has been discovered in the Cardamom Mountains of southeast Cambodia.
Bears, cats, and mystery mammals: camera traps in 'paper park' prove it's worth protecting
Can a single photograph change the fate of a park? A new conservation group, HabitatID, believes so, and is putting this belief into action. Setting up camera traps in Cambodia's Virachey National Park, the group hopes that photos of charismatic and endangered species will help reinvigorate protection for a park that has been abandoned by conservation groups and underfunded by the government.
Chinese luxury furniture linked to murder, near extinction
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NASA detects surge in deforestation in Malaysia, Bolivia during first quarter of 2014
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Cambodia protects forest for giant ibis
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NASA data reveals impact of cyclones on forests in Vietnam, Madagascar
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Cambodian communities best placed to prevent illegal logging
A study on deforestation in Cambodia has found that forests are better protected when local communities are given the responsibility to manage them locally. Cambodia has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, losing 1.2 per cent each year from 2005-2010. The loss of forests due to illegal logging, commercial agriculture, and other factors can have a devastating impact on local communities, as well as contributing to global climate change. In a country beset by corruption and ineffectual state forest management, alternative models of forest protection are clearly needed.
Only suspect in Cambodian journalist's murder acquitted
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New bird species discovered in Cambodia's largest city
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