The rainforests of French Guiana are still largely unexploited and sparsely populated. The majority of the population lives on the Atlantic coastal zone and is totally dependent on subsidies from France. The European Space Agency is responsible for more than 50 percent of the economic activity.
||French Guiana Forest Figures
Total forest area: 8,063,000 ha
% of land area: 91.8%
Primary forest cover: 7,701,000 ha
% of land area: 87.7%
% total forest area: 95.5%
Deforestation Rates, 2000-2005
Annual change in forest cover: n/a
Annual deforestation rate: n/a
Change in defor. rate since '90s: -100.0%
Total forest loss since 1990: -28,000 ha
Total forest loss since 1990:-0.3%
Primary or "Old-growth" forests
Annual loss of primary forests: -12000 ha
Annual deforestation rate: -0.2%
Change in deforestation rate since '90s: -17.4%
Primary forest loss since 1990: -60,000 ha
Primary forest loss since 1990:-2.6%
Social services: 0%
Multiple purpose: 31.5%
None or unknown: 64.4
Forest Area Breakdown
Total area: 8,063,000 ha
Primary: 7,701,000 ha
Modified natural: 361,000 ha
Production plantation: 1,000 ha
Production plantation: n/a
Plantations, 2005: 1,000 ha
% of total forest cover: n.s.%
Annual change rate (00-05): n/a
Above-ground biomass: n/a M t
Below-ground biomass: n/a M t
Area annually affected by
Number of tree species in IUCN red list
Number of native tree species: 1,200
Critically endangered: 3
Wood removal 2005
Industrial roundwood: 70,000 m3 o.b.
Wood fuel: n/a
Value of forest products, 2005
Industrial roundwood: $2,716,000
Wood fuel: n/a
Non-wood forest products (NWFPs): $4,099,000
Total Value: $6,815,000
More forest statistics for French Guiana
For the immediate future, the forests of French Guiana face relatively few threats, although timber extraction is increasing and a relatively high population growth rate of displaced Lao farmers and other local groups may pressure coastal forest regions with subsistence agriculture. Gold potential in the interior regions is attracting foreign development interest, and there are some concerns over a potential road project. In recent years sporadic outbreaks of civil disorder over independence have brought into question what would happen to forests should French Guiana become independent. Still, the country lost only 2.6 percent of its forest cover between 1990 and 2005, the lowest loss in South America. Average annual deforestation rates have actually declined by 17 percent since the close of the 1990s.
Overall, more than 90 percent of French Guiana is forested, about 95 percent of which consists of primary forest. The country has some 1,064 known species of amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles, according to figures from the World Conservation Monitoring Centre. Of these, 1.1 percent are endemic and 1.9 percent are threatened. French Guiana is home to at least 5,625 species of vascular plants, of which 2.6 percent are endemic. At present, 15.4 percent of French Guiana is protected under IUCN categories I-V.
Recent articles | French Guiana news updates | XML
Relative of the 'penis snake' discovered in South America (photos)
(03/27/2013) A new species of caecilian - a worm-like amphibian - has been discovered in French Guiana.
Gold mine approved in French Guiana's only national park
(01/15/2013) Tensions have risen in the small Amazonian community of Saül in French Guiana after locals discovered that the French government approved a large-scale gold mining operation near their town—and inside French Guiana's only national park—against their wishes. Run by mining company, Rexma, locals and scientists both fear that the mine would lead to deforestation, water pollution, and a loss in biodiversity for a community dependent on the forest and ecotourism.
Deforestation rate falls across Amazon rainforest countries
(12/06/2012) The average annual rate of deforestation across Amazon rainforest countries dropped sharply in the second half of the 2000s, reports a comprehensive new assessment of the region's forest cover and drivers of deforestation. While the drop in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has been widely reported, several other Amazon countries saw their rates of forest loss drop as well, according to the report, which was published by a coalition of 11 Latin American civil society groups and research institutions that form the Amazonian Network of Georeferenced Socio-Environmental Information (RAISG).
New forest map shows 6% of Amazon deforested between 2000 and 2010
(09/21/2012) An update to one of the most comprehensive maps of the Amazon basin shows that forest cover across the world's largest rainforest declined by about six percent between 2000 and 2010. But the map also reveals hopeful signs that recognition of protected areas and native lands across the eight countries and one department that make up the Amazon is improving, with conservation and indigenous territories now covering nearly half of its land mass.
Scientists unlock indigenous secret to sustainable agriculture in the Amazon's savannas
(04/11/2012) Indigenous populations in the Amazon successfully farmed without the use of fire before the arrival of Europeans, demonstrating a potentially sustainable approach to land management in a region that is increasingly vulnerable to man-made fires.
Eco-label for rainforest products could boost sustainability
(12/06/2009) Tropical forests around the world continue to fall, largely the result of logging and conversion to agriculture. But new hope for forests has emerged under a scheme that would reward countries for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and degradation. Some variations of the concept, which is known as REDD, would allow for "sustainable forest management" (SFM), that is, reduced impact logging of forests, as well as harvesting of non-wood forest products (NWFPs) like seeds, fruit, and game. But the extent to which this harvesting affects forest ecology, and therefore carbon sequestration, is still poorly understood.
Amazon rainforest in big trouble, says UN
(02/19/2009) Economic development could doom the Amazon warns a comprehensive new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The report — titled GEO Amazonia [PDF-21.3MB] — is largely a synthesis of previously published research, drawing upon studies by more than 150 experts in the eight countries that share the Amazon.
Payments for eco services could save the Amazon
(02/12/2009) Paying for the ecological services provided by the Amazon rainforest could be the key to saving it, reports a new analysis from WWF. The study, Keeping the Amazon forests standing: a matter of values, tallied the economic value of various ecosystem services afforded by Earth's largest rainforest. It found that standing forest is worth, at minimum, $426 per hectare per year.
Geology, climate links make Guiana Shield region particularly sensitive to change
(06/14/2008) Soil and climate patterns in the Guiana Shield make the region particularly sensitive to environmental change, said a scientist speaking at a biology conference in Paramaribo, Suriname.
Rare golden primates help speed recovery of endangered Brazilian forest
(06/09/2008) The endangered golden lion tamarin — a flagship species for conservation efforts in Brazil's highly threatened Atlantic Forest or Mata Atlantica — plays an important role in seed dispersal, thereby helping forest regeneration, according to research published in the June issue of the open access e-journal Tropical conservation Science.
Guiana Shield forests help preserve biodiversity and climate
(06/09/2008) The Guiana Shield region of South America could play a significant role in efforts to fight global warming as part of a broader strategy to protect the world's biodiversity hotspots and high biodiversty wilderness areas, said a leading conservationist speaking in Paramaribo, Suriname at a gathering of tropical biologists.
France blocks controversial rainforest gold mine in French Guiana
(02/06/2008) Environmentalists declared victory after the French government blocked approval of a controversial gold mine bordering the Kaw wetland, an ecologically rich site in French Guiana. The decision was handed down last week following an environmental assessment by the Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Development based on work by local scientists.
Proposed gold mine proves controversial in French Guiana rainforest
(11/07/2007) Commercial gold mining threatens a key forest reserve and wetland in French Guiana say scientists who warn that exploitation could pollute rivers with toxic compounds, threaten wildlife, and put indigenous populations at risk.
Low deforestation countries to see least benefit from carbon trading
(08/13/2007) Countries that have done the best job protecting their tropical forests stand to gain the least from proposed incentives to combat global warming through carbon offsets, warns a new study published in Tuesday in the journal Public Library of Science Biology (PLoS). The authors say that "high forest cover with low rates of deforestation" (HFLD) nations "could become the most vulnerable targets for deforestation if the Kyoto Protocol and upcoming negotiations on carbon trading fail to include intact standing forest."
New park in French Guiana creates largest Amazon protected area
(02/28/2007) Environmental group WWF has applauded the creation of a new national park in French Guiana, a department of France located in northeaster South America. WWF says the 2 million-hectare Guyana Amazonian Park will link to protected areas in neighboring Brazil, including the Tumucumaque National Park, Grao-Para Station and Maicuru Reserve. In total, the protected areas network will encompass 12 million hectares of tropical forest, making it the world's largest rainforest park.
Time is running out for French Guiana's rainforests
(12/19/2006) Understanding relationships between plants and animals is key to understanding rainforest ecology. Dr. Pierre-Michel Forget of the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle in France is a renowned expert on the interdependency between rainforest trees and seed disperses. Author of dozens of papers on tropical forest ecology, Dr Forget is increasingly concerned about deforestation and biodiversity loss in forests of the Guiana Shield region of Northern South America. In particular he sees the invasion of informal gold miners, known as garimpeiros, as a significant threat to forests in French Guiana, Suriname, Guyana and Venezuela.
Europe's largest tropical rainforest invaded by gold miners
(12/19/2006) As Europe frets over climate change and deforestation, threats to "Europe's largest tropical rainforest" are mounting, according to reports from French Guiana. While French Guiana is best known for its infamous Devil's Island penal colony and as the main launch site for the European Space Agency, which is responsible for more than 50% of the state's economy activity, most of the territory is covered with lowland tropical rainforest. French Guiana's forests are biologically rich with some 1,064 known species of amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles, and 5,625 species of vascular plants according to figures from the World conservation Monitoring Center.
Suggested reading - Books
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Last updated: 6 Feb 2006