Cambodia

By Rhett Butler   |   Last updated August 15, 2014

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.

Total forest areaDense forest areaForest gainForest lossTotal land area
>10% tree cover (ha)% total land cover>50% tree cover (ha)% total land cover2001-2012 (ha)% total forest cover2001-2012 (ha)% total forest cover(ha)
Banteay Meanchey6236610.2%276034.5%1107217.8%1461523.4%614428
Battambang52119544.0%42712436.0%28634354.9%14975028.7%1185062
Kampong Cham24576326.4%16232617.4%8911836.3%8099133.0%931550
Kampong Chhnang15470029.5%9823818.7%5472335.4%70774.6%525066
Kampong Speu23011933.8%16518924.3%11036648.0%3359114.6%680989
Kampong Thom72329558.4%61724749.8%52479072.6%15757721.8%1238883
Kampot19228240.8%16904135.9%14335874.6%2395112.5%471086
Kandal6177918.3%3686410.9%1130118.3%18042.9%338070
Koh Kong113596892.8%107413687.8%100974188.9%751306.6%1223806
Kep299620.1%204013.7%101233.8%1836.1%14909
Kracheh84483972.1%55151747.1%43618951.6%16185819.2%1171692
Krong Pailin7413968.1%6312758.0%4114155.5%3451146.5%108810
Krong Preah Sihanouk8972864.4%7970957.2%6852576.4%1590617.7%139337
Mondulkiri100388673.6%58237642.7%40817140.7%267442.7%1364022
Oddar Meanchey25486948.8%12939424.8%8225332.3%4875019.1%521922
Phnom Penh15014.3%5391.5%1097.3%624.1%35173
Pursat84354172.6%74071163.7%62644374.3%469355.6%1161931
Preah Vihear110738979.0%60090942.8%38938235.2%494704.5%1402605
Prey Veng58911.3%24800.5%102417.4%77913.2%468317
Ratanakiri97984684.1%72582562.3%59851761.1%941969.6%1165369
Siem Reap64353853.8%44054036.8%29155745.3%12313119.1%1196903
Stung Treng99722584.9%77690466.1%65493165.7%784237.9%1174953
Svay Rieng149245.2%55291.9%176311.8%302720.3%285315
Takéo74842.2%37591.1%123416.5%3514.7%347775
Cambodia1019926157.4%748312742.1%584306457.3%122880712.0%17767976


Historical drivers of deforestation

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
Chart: aggregate forest loss in Cambodia

Forest loss by province
Forest loss by province in Cambodia

Forest loss by province in Cambodia
Annual forest loss by province in Cambodia

Cambodia forest cover by province
Cambodia forest cover by province


Cambodia forest cover
Cambodia forest cover

Pictures of Cambodia

Recent articles | Cambodia news updates | XML

Cambodia Forest Figures

Forest Cover
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%

Forest Classification
Public: 100%
Private: 0%
Other: 0%
Use
Production: 32.3%
Protection: 3.9%
Conservation: 21.3%
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
Semi-natural: n/a
Production plantation: 59,000 ha
Production plantation: n/a

Plantations
Plantations, 2005: 59,000 ha
% of total forest cover: 0.6%
Annual change rate (00-05): -2,600,000 ha

Carbon storage
Above-ground biomass: 1,904 M t
Below-ground biomass: 628 M t

Area annually affected by
Fire: n/a
Insects: n/a
Diseases: n/a

Number of tree species in IUCN red list
Number of native tree species: 862
Critically endangered: 10
Endangered: 13
Vulnerable: 9

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

Growing need for deforestation-free rubber as tire demand destroys native forests

(04/18/2015) Surging demand for natural rubber is decimating some of the world's most endangered forests, putting wildlife and critical ecosystem services at risk, warn scientists writing in the journal Conservation Letters. Reviewing a large body of published research, Eleanor Warren-Thomas of the University of East Anglia and colleagues detail the crop's expansion across across Southeast Asia in recent decades.


New wormy amphibians discovered in Southeast Asia

(03/13/2015) Worms come in all different sizes, shapes, textures, colors, and flavors. Some attack human digestive systems, some surface after a rainstorm, and some come in plastic wrappers, covered in sour sugar, at the local grocery store. Despite their similar features and anatomies, many of the real worms (not the sugar kind) demonstrate convergent evolution, meaning they are not related but have independently evolved similar features.


Cambodia deports activist leader...then suspends controversial dam

(02/25/2015) 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

(02/25/2015) 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)

(11/17/2014) If you are what you eat, then just as true, you are what you buy. From organic, fair-trade, responsible palm oil, Wildlife Friendly, and most recently deforestation-free, consumers can cast their lot with a variety of eco-friendly labels and define who they are by what they buy. It gives someone in New York City the chance to contribute to forest protection in Indonesia by using their wallets to influence the sustainability of the supply chain that serves them with goods.


Saving Asia's other endangered cats (photos)

(10/21/2014) It's no secret that when it comes to the wild cats of Asia—and, really, cats in general—tigers get all the press. In fact, tigers—down to an estimated 3,200 individuals—arguably dominate conservation across Asia. But as magnificent, grand, and endangered as the tigers are, there are a number of other felines in the region that are much less studied—and may be just as imperiled.


Another environmental journalist killed in Cambodia

(10/14/2014) Another Cambodian journalist has been gunned down while investigating illegal logging by state officials.


NASA: Forest loss leaps in Bolivia, Mekong region

(08/08/2014) 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

(06/23/2014) 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

(06/16/2014) 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

(06/09/2014) 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

(05/12/2014) Intricately carved, meticulously designed, and costing hundreds of thousands of dollars: this is "hongmu," or Chinese luxury furniture reflecting the elite styles of the Ming and Qing dynasties. But while the red-colored furniture may be aesthetically beautiful, it comes with a blood price.


NASA detects surge in deforestation in Malaysia, Bolivia during first quarter of 2014

(04/21/2014) Forest disturbance in Malaysia, Bolivia, Panama, and Ecuador surged during the first quarter of 2014, according to NASA data.


Cambodia protects forest for giant ibis

(02/10/2014) 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

(01/30/2014) 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

(01/22/2014) 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

(08/29/2013) 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

(06/26/2013) 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

(05/29/2013) 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

(05/03/2013) 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.




Suggested reading - Books

CIA-World Factbook Profile
FAO-Forestry Profile
World Resources Institute