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
NASA: Forest loss leaps in Bolivia, Mekong region
||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
New satellite data from NASA suggests that deforestation is sharply increasing in Bolivia and Mekong countries during the second quarter of 2014.
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 its worth protecting
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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
Cambodia has set aside an area of forest just slightly smaller than Singapore to protect the country's national bird: the giant ibis (Thaumatibis gigantea). Listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List, the giant ibis is down to just a few hundred birds.
NASA data reveals impact of cyclones on forests in Vietnam, Madagascar
Forest disturbance in Madagascar and Vietnam increased significantly in the aftermath of cyclones that hit the countries last year, according to a forest tracking tool developed by a team of NASA researchers.
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
The only suspect in 2012 slaying of Hang Serei Oudom, a Cambodian environmental journalist, has been acquitted of murder by a court in Cambodia, reports the AFP
New bird species discovered in Cambodia's largest city
A previously unknown species of bird has been found hiding in plain sight after scientists photographed what was thought to be more abundant species at a construction site on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capitol and largest city. Subsequent analysis revealed the species to be distinct.
Featured video: a glimpse into the life of Cambodia’s Asian elephant
The Cambodian Government’s Forestry Administration has recently teamed up with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in order to peer into the daily lives of the country’s Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus
). Through the use of camera traps, the organizations caught an intimate glimpse of the regular, day-to-day behavior of these animals.
Mekong region has lost a third of its forests in 30 years, may lose another third by 2030
The Greater Mekong region of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand and Vietnam will lose a third of its remaining forest cover by 2030 unless regional governments improve management of natural resources and transition toward a greener growth model, warns a new report issued by WWF.
The river of plenty: uncovering the secrets of the amazing Mekong
Home to giant catfish and stingrays, feeding over 60 million people, and with the largest abundance of freshwater fish in the world, the Mekong River, and its numerous tributaries, brings food, culture, and life to much of Southeast Asia. Despite this, little is known about the biodiversity and ecosystems of the Mekong, which is second only to the Amazon in terms of freshwater biodiversity. Meanwhile, the river is facing an existential crisis in the form of 77 proposed dams, while population growth, pollution, and development further imperil this understudied, but vast, ecosystem.
Poachers enlisting impoverished wildlife rangers as accomplices in elephant, rhino killing
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Cambodia loses half its seasonal wetlands in 10 years
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Into the unknown mountains of Cambodia: rare birds, rice wine, and talk of tigers
Ringed with forested mountains forming the borders with Laos and Vietnam, the northeast corner of Cambodia has been an intriguing blank spot among my extensive travels through the country. Nestled up against this frontier is Virachey National Park, created in 1993. I began searching for a way to explore this area a couple of years ago, hoping to connect with conservation NGOs to get me into the park; no one seemed to know much about it. I learned that the area had been written off by these groups due to massive land concessions given to logging and rubber concerns. The World Bank abandoned its 8-year effort to create a management scheme for Virachey after the concessions were granted in 2007. A moratorium on the concessions is temporarily in place, but illegal logging incursions into the park continue.
Captive frogs may be spreading diseases to wild cousins across Southeast Asia
Scientists have documented a series of links between exotic frogs for trade and diseases in wild frogs in Southeast Asia, including the first documented case of the chytrid fungus—a virulent and lethal disease—in Singapore. According to researchers writing in a new study in EcoHealth, frogs imported into Southeast Asia as pets, food, or traditional medicine are very likely spreading diseases to wild populations.
Investors beware: global land grabbing ends in 'financial damage' and human rights violations
Investing in companies that flout local community rights in developing countries often leads to severe economic losses, according to a new report from the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI). A rising trend in "land grabbing" from Africa to South America by corporations and even foreign governments results in social instability, which can lead to large-scale protests, violence, and even murder, delaying and sometimes derailing projects. Such instability poses massive risk to any investor, not to mention supporting corporate entities that are accused of ignoring human rights.
The year in rainforests
2012 was another year of mixed news for the world's tropical forests. This is a look at some of the most significant tropical rainforest-related news stories for 2012. There were many other important stories in 2012 and some were undoubtedly overlooked in this review. If you feel there's something we missed, please feel free to highlight it in the comments section. Also please note that this post focuses only on tropical forests.
Suggested reading - Books
CIA-World Factbook Profile
World Resources Institute