Forest CoverTotal forest area: 15,104,000 ha % of land area: 76.7%
Primary forest cover: 9,314,000 ha % of land area: 47.3% % total forest area: 61.7%
Deforestation Rates, 2000-2005Annual change in forest cover: n/a Annual deforestation rate: n/a Change in defor. rate since '90s: n/a Total forest loss since 1990: n/a Total forest loss since 1990:0.0%
Primary or "Old-growth" forests Annual loss of primary forests: n/a Annual deforestation rate: n/a Change in deforestation rate since '90s: n/a Primary forest loss since 1990: n/a Primary forest loss since 1990:n/a
Forest ClassificationPublic: 66.3% Private: n/a Other: 33.7% Use Production: 34.9% Protection: n/a Conservation: 1% Social services: 2.4% Multiple purpose: n/a None or unknown: 61.7
Forest Area BreakdownTotal area: 15,104,000 ha Primary: 9,314,000 ha Modified natural: 5,789,000 ha Semi-natural: n/a Production plantation: n/a Production plantation: n/a
PlantationsPlantations, 2005: n/a % of total forest cover: n/a Annual change rate (00-05): n/a
Carbon storageAbove-ground biomass: 2,824 M t Below-ground biomass: 619 M t
Area annually affected byFire: n/a Insects: n/a Diseases: n/a
Number of tree species in IUCN red listNumber of native tree species: 1,182 Critically endangered: 1 Endangered: 3 Vulnerable: 18
Guyana is a small, lightly populated country on the north coast of South America. About three-quarters of Guyana is forested, roughly 60 percent of which is classified as primary forest. Guyana's forests are highly diverse: the country has some 1,263 known species of amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles, and 6,409 species of plants. According to an assessment by the ITTO, forests in Guyana can be broken down as follows: rainforest (36 percent), montane forest (35 percent). swamp and marsh (15 percent), dry evergreen (7 percent), seasonal forest (6 percent), and mangrove forest (1 percent).
Despite its forest cover, Guyana's ancient soils are highly infertile and most of the country's population of 765,000 is confined to coastal areas. Guyana is one of South America's poorest countries and carries an external debt that is 40 percent of its GDP.
Historically, Guyana's extensive forests have been lightly exploited, largely due to obsolete equipment and lack of capital, but in the early 1990s the government began to make overtures toward foreign logging firms to harvest the country's "slow growing" and "heavy" hardwoods (ITTO) like greenheart (Chlorocardium rodiaei). Encouraged by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to maximize development of its resources to attract foreign investment, in 1991 the ruling strongman granted a 50-year, 4.2-million-acre (1.69-million-hectare) concession to Barama Company Limited, a Malaysian-Korean logging firm. Under the terms of the deal, Barama enjoyed a 10-year tax holiday, paid almost no royalties to the Guyana government, and was granted the right to log lands that had been inhabited by indigenous groups. With such favorable agreements, logging firms soon flooded to Guyana, which had some of the lowest logging fees and royalties in the world—only 10 percent of what most African and Asian countries charged at the time. At the same time illegal chainsaw logging expanded rapidly, and Guyana lost control over its forestry sector.
In reaction to the sudden invasion of foreign logging firms and in order to receive a loan, in May of 1995, the government issued a three-year moratorium on new logging concessions. Shortly thereafter, the government enacted environmental legislation and took steps to regain some semblance of control over the timber industry. With aid from international groups, the Guyanese government increased funding for its forestry commission to better monitor logging activities. According to the ITTO, the current forestry law includes a provision for a "conservation concession in which an opportunity value of fee revenue is paid in lieu of harvesting revenues." Thus timber companies can be compensated for leaving an area of forest untouched by logging.
For its part, Barama claims to be carrying out sustainable forestry and maintains that it only extracts two trees per acre, while minimizing damage to the surrounding forest. Its operations are monitored by an independent research center that carries out studies to assess growth rates and logging impacts. With such a plan, the forest could, in theory, regenerate in 25 years. Barama says that it plans to stay in Guyana for its full 50-year concession.
Today the level of harvesting in Guyana is very low. According to estimates from the FAO and the ITTO, harvesting is probably 350,000-400,000 cubic meters per year from an area of 6 million hectares. Commercial logging is presently limited by lack of infrastructure and high harvesting costs, political uncertainties, and the dispersal of valuable tree stocks over a wide area.
This is ITTO's assessment of the timber sector in Guyana:
Unlike most other advice given, the mission does not believe that pursuit of high volume and creation of competitive, integrated enterprises are the correct way forward. Guyana has a diverse forest resource with small quantities of unusual species. It cannot dry and process timber to a moisture content suitable for indoor use in centrally heated buildings in temperate countries. Although there are decorative woods and greenheart, much of the resource is hard, heavy, and dark.
Capital is expensive and extremely limited and therefore has to be used optimally, which means operating at the cheapest scale. Capacity for different processes may not be sufficiently compatible for a single enterprise to operate them all optimally. This suggests that specialization would be a better strategy than vertical integration for most enterprises.
Returns to Guyana from its forests will have to come through maximizing both added value and employment opportunities. The current tendency to export logs, especially at an average price of just over US$60/cubic meter, helps neither of these goals.
In its 2003 survey, the ITTO concluded that "there were relatively few negative impacts associated with forest harvesting in Guyana. This is not to say there are no problems but there are certainly no major ones. Negative impacts are almost certainly arising from increased chainsaw logging, especially on wildlife, but there is no objective measurement of these."
Mining is one of Guyana's most important economic activities—sugar, bauxite, rice, and gold account for 70-75 percent of export earnings, according to the WTO.
Gold mining in Guyana made international headlines in August of 1995 when a mine run by Golden Star Resources (Denver, U.S.) and Cambior (Montreal, Canada) spilled four billion liters of cyanide-laced waste water into a tributary of the Essequibo, Guyana's largest river. Initially, mine operators tried to cover up the spill by burying fish carcasses, but eventually they reported the spill to the Guyanese government six days after the fact.
The ITTO reports that mining (mainly gold but also gems including diamonds), particularly small-scale operations, is having significant environmental impacts in Guyana. Mining has resulted in widespread deforestation in the upper Essequibo region while mine tailings—including mercury and cyanide—end up in local waterways. The ITTO notes that "in Mahdia, where the population probably has one of the highest per capita supplies in the world of fresh water from the rainfall, the community has no access to a supply of potable water."
With gold prices currently hovering on the high side of their historical range it seems likely that gold exploitation will continue to expand in Guyana.
Deforestation rates are presently unavailable for Guyana, but they are likely low. In the first half of the 1990s, FAO figures show that Guyana lost about 0.3 percent of its forest cover annually, one of the lowest rates in South America.
Conservation and the Environment
To date only 2.3 percent of Guyana is protected, though Conservation International has secured some 300,000 hectares of forest in two "conservation concessions." With its virgin forests and the magnificent 425-foot King George VI falls, the country has excellent potential for eco-tourism.
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.
Assessing carbon stock value of forests is tricky business, study finds
(02/19/2015) With financial incentives encouraging maintenance of carbon stocks and the increased popularity of carbon trading between countries, a forest has become economically a lot more than a clump of trees that supplements livelihoods. A forest now has an intrinsic value by just existing, a value that can be measured in economic terms.
Rainforests: 10 things to watch in 2015
(01/02/2015) 2014 was a landmark year for tropical rainforests, with dozens of major companies committing to eliminating deforestation from their supply chains, the launch of new platforms for monitoring forests, and sharp drop in clearing in the Brazilian Amazon, among other big developments. Here's a quick look ahead at what might be in store for tropical forests in 2015.
Chinese logging company takes over Guyana's forests
(11/26/2014) Foreign companies investing in Guyana’s substantial forests are supposed to adhere to national laws and international agreements. But civil society leaders and activists inside and outside the South American country are crying foul, saying foreign corporations and government officials are paying lip service to the accords while quietly building a timber-harvesting empire in the country with few benefits for the average Guyanese.
Gold mining expanding rapidly along Guiana Shield, threatening forests, water, wildlife
(10/22/2014) Gold mining is on the rise in the Guiana Shield, a geographic region of South America that holds one of the world’s largest undisturbed tract of rainforest. A new mapping technology using a radar and optical imaging combination has detected a significant increase in mining since 2000, threatening the region's forests and water quality.
An impossible balancing act? Forests benefit from isolation, but at cost to local communities
(10/07/2014) The indigenous people of the Amazon live in areas that house many of the Amazon’s diverse species. The Rupununi region of Guyana is one such area, with approximately 20,000 Makushi and Wapishana people living in isolation. According to a recent study published in Environmental Modelling & Software, a simulation model revealed a link between growing indigenous populations and gradual local resource depletion.
How do we save the world's vanishing old-growth forests?
(08/26/2014) There's nothing in the world like a primary forest, which has never been industrially logged or cleared by humans. They are often described as cathedral-like, due to pillar-like trees and carpet-like undergrowth. Yet, the world's primary forests—also known as old-growth forests—are falling every year, and policy-makers are not doing enough to stop it.
Norway puts $1.6B into rainforest conservation
(08/19/2014) Since 2008 Norway has been the single largest foreign donor to tropical forest conservation, putting more than 10 billion Norwegian Krone, or $1.6 billion, toward programs in several countries under its International Climate and Forest Initiative. But how effective have those funds been in actually protecting forests?
Emissions from rainforest logging average 16% of those from deforestation
(04/08/2014) Carbon emissions from selective logging operations in tropical rainforests are roughly a sixth of those from outright forest clearing, finds a new study that evaluated 13 forestry concessions in six countries. The study analyzed carbon losses from elements of logging operations, including timber extraction, collateral damage to surrounding vegetation, and logging infrastructure like roads and skid trails.
Art, education, and health: holistic conservation group embarks on new chapter
(10/21/2013) It's unlikely conservation organizations can survive if they are unwilling to embrace change: as an endeavor, conservation requires not just longterm planning, but also an ability to move proactively and fluidly to protect species and safeguard ecosystems. Environmental and education NGO, the Art of Conservation, is currently embarking on its biggest change since its foundation in 2006: moving away from its base in Rwanda, while leaving a legacy behind.
New poison dart frog discovered in 'Lost World'
(07/19/2013) Scientists have described a new species of poison dart frog after discovering it during a study to determine the impact of tourism on biodiversity in a tract of rainforest known as 'The Lost World' in Guyana.
Forgotten species: the arapaima or 'dinosaur fish'
(07/15/2013) Let's go back some 14,000 years (or up to 50,000 depending on who you talk to), since this is the first time humans encountered the meandering, seemingly endless river system of the Amazon. Certainly, the world's first Amazonians would have been astounded by the giant beasts of the region, including ground sloths and mastodons (both now extinct), as well as giant anteaters, armadillos, and tapirs, currently the biggest land animal on the continent. But these first explorers might have been even more surprised by what dwelled in the rivers: anaconda, caiman, and the arapaima. Wait, the what?
Deforestation rates for Amazon countries outside Brazil
(06/26/2013) Deforestation has sharply increased in Amazon countries outside of Brazil, finds a new analysis based on satellite data. Using data from Terra-i, O-Eco's InfoAmazonia team has developed updated forest cover maps for Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, French Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela. The results reveal an increasing trend in forest clearing since 2004.
Miners win ruling over indigenous groups in Guyana
(01/29/2013) A judge in Guyana's high court has ruled that indigenous groups do not have the right to expel legal miners from their land. The judge, Diana Insanally, found that if the miners in question held a government-approved license than the local community had no right to dispute the mining. The ruling has sparked protests by indigenous groups and is expected to be appealed.
The year in rainforests
(12/31/2012) 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.
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.
Guyana rainforests secure trust fund
(07/30/2012) The nation of Guyana sports some of South America's most intact and least-imperiled rainforests, and a new $8.5 million trust fund hopes to keep it that way. The Guyanese government has teamed up with Germany and Conservation International (CI) to create a long-term trust fund to manage the country's protected areas system (PAS).
Guyanese tribe maps Connecticut-sized rainforest for land rights
(02/07/2012) In a bid to gain legal recognition of their land, the indigenous Wapichan people have digitally mapped their customary rainforest land in Guyana over the past ten years. Covering 1.4 million hectares, about the size of Connecticut, the rainforest would be split between sustainable-use regions, sacred areas, and wildlife conservation according to a plan by the Wapichan tribe that will be released today. The plan says the tribe would preserve the forest from extractive industries.
Indigenous technicians scour Amazonia to help researchers track wildlife populations
(11/09/2011) Scientists only have so many hands and eyes. That’s why ecologists enlisted hundreds of Makushi and Wapishana villagers to record the sights and signs of animals across 48,000 square kilometers of the Amazon basin near the Brazil-Guyana border. In the ongoing project, scientists seek to describe the interactions between indigenous peoples, their environment and the native fauna.
Animal picture of the day: the jaws of the piranha
(08/10/2011) Few fish have a more fearsome reputation than the piranha. Yet recent research has shown that attacks on humans are rare and often accidental, though they do eat their prey alive and are capable of stripping a cattle carcass bare (though it doesn't happen instantaneously).
World Atlas of Mangroves: A Book Review
(04/14/2011) Because recent research has shown that it is often the case that mangroves store more carbon than tropical forests--from 90 tons to 588 tons carbon from above-ground and below-ground biomass combined with net primary productivity of 7 to 25 tons carbon annually--while providing an estimated ecosystem services value of up to US$ 9270 per hectare per year, the timely publication of the World Atlas of Mangroves is an excellent reference for those of us working to protect mangroves globally. With information sourced from 1400 literature references, the atlas gives the reader the information they need so as to further understand mangrove ecosystems, and the opportunities to develop mangrove ecosystem conservation and carbon projects.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions generated from mongabay.com operations (server, data transfer, travel) are mitigated through an association with Anthrotect,
an organization working with Afro-indigenous and Embera communities to protect forests in Colombia's Darien region. Anthrotect is protecting the habitat of mongabay's mascot: the scale-crested pygmy tyrant.
"Rainforest" is used interchangeably with "rain forest" on this site. "Jungle" is generally not used.