Forest CoverTotal forest area: 88,495,000 ha % of land area: 48.8%
Primary forest cover: 48,702,000 ha % of land area: 26.9% % total forest area: 55.0%
Deforestation Rates, 2000-2005Annual change in forest cover: -1,871,400 ha Annual deforestation rate: -2.0% Change in defor. rate since '90s: 19.1% Total forest loss since 1990: -28,072,000 ha Total forest loss since 1990:-24.1%
Primary or "Old-growth" forests Annual loss of primary forests: -1447800 ha Annual deforestation rate: -2.6% Change in deforestation rate since '90s: 25.9% Primary forest loss since 1990: -7,239,000 ha Primary forest loss since 1990:-30.8%
Forest ClassificationPublic: 100% Private: 0% Other: 0% Use Production: 53.9% Protection: 27.5% Conservation: 18.6% Social services: n/a Multiple purpose: n/a None or unknown: n/a
Forest Area BreakdownTotal area: 88,495,000 ha Primary: 48,702,000 ha Modified natural: n/a Semi-natural: 36,394,000 ha Production plantation: 3,399,000 ha Production plantation: n/a
PlantationsPlantations, 2005: 3,399,000 ha % of total forest cover: 3.8% Annual change rate (00-05): 79,400,000 ha
Carbon storageAbove-ground biomass: 8,867 M t Below-ground biomass: 2,926 M t
Area annually affected byFire: 122,000 ha Insects: n/a Diseases: n/a
Number of tree species in IUCN red listNumber of native tree species: n/a Critically endangered: 122 Endangered: 57 Vulnerable: 76
Indonesia houses the most extensive rainforest cover in all of Asia, though it is rapidly developing these lands to accommodate its increasing population and growing economy.
Indonesia's 17,000 islands form an archipelago that spans two biogeographic realms—the Indomalayan and Australasian—and seven biogeographic regions, and support tremendous diversity and endemism of species. Of the country's 3,305 known species of amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles, 31.1 percent are endemic and 9.9 percent are threatened. Indonesia is home to at least 29,375 species of vascular plants, of which 59.6 percent are endemic.
Today just under half of Indonesia is forested, representing a significant decline in its original forest cover. Between 1990 and 2005 the country lost more than 28 million hectares of forest, including 21.7 hectares of virgin forest. Its loss of biologically rich primary forest was second only to Brazil during that period, and since the close of the 1990s, deforestation rates of primary forest cover have climbed 26 percent. Today Indonesia's forests are some of the most threatened on the planet.
Indonesia's forests are being degraded and destroyed by logging, mining operations, large-scale agricultural plantations, colonization, and subsistence activities like shifting agriculture and cutting for fuelwood. Rainforest cover has steadily declined since the 1960s when 82 percent of the country was covered with forest, to 68 percent in 1982, to 53 percent in 1995, and 49 percent today. Much of this remaining cover consists of logged-over and degraded forest.
The effects from forest loss have been widespread, including irregular river flows, soil erosion, and reduced yield from of forest products. Pollution from chlorine bleach used in pulp bleaching and run-off from mines has damaged river systems and adjacent cropland, while wildlife poaching has reduced populations of several conspicuous species including the orangutan (endangered), Bali and Javan tigers (extinct), and Javan and Sumatran rhinos (on the brink of extinction). On the island of New Guinea (Irian Jaya) the world's only tropical glacier is receding due to climate change, but also due to the local effects of mining and deforestation.
Logging for tropical timbers and pulpwood is the best-known cause of forest loss and degradation in the country. Indonesia is the world's largest exporter of tropical timber, generating upwards of US$5 billion annually, and more than 48 million hectares (55 percent of the country's remaining forests) are concessioned for logging. Logging in Indonesia has opened some of the most remote, forbidding places on earth to development. After decimating much of the forests in less remote locations, timber firms have stepped up practices on the island of Borneo and the state of Irian Jaya on New Guinea, where great swaths of forests have been cleared in recent years and logging firms have to move deeper and deeper into the interior to find suitable trees. For example, in the mid-1990s, only 7 percent of Indonesia's logging concessions were located in Irian Jaya, but today more than 20 percent exist in the territory.
Legal timber harvesting affects 700,000-850,000 hectares of forest per year in Indonesia, but widespread illegal logging boosts the overall logged area to at least 1.2-1.4 million hectares and possibly much higher—in 2004, Environment Minister Nabiel Makarim said that 75 percent of logging in Indonesia is illegal. Despite an official ban on the export of raw logs from Indonesia, timber is regularly smuggled to Malaysia, Singapore, and other Asian countries. By some estimates, Indonesia is losing around $1 billion a year in tax revenue from the illicit trade. Illegal cutting is also hurting legitimate timber-harvesting businesses by reducing the supply of logs available for processing, and undercutting international prices for wood and wood products.
Over the past few years, extensive areas of forest have been converted for oil-palm plantations. Indonesia's oil-palm plantations grew from 600,000 hectares in 1985 to more than 4 million hectares by early 2006 when the government announced a plan to develop 3 million additional hectares of oil-palm plantations by 2011. Oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) is an attractive plantation crop because it is the cheapest vegetable oil and produces more oil per hectare than any other oilseed. In the current environment of high energy prices, palm oil is seen as a good way to meet increasing demand for biofuel as an alternative energy source.
While clear-cutting virgin rainforest is illegal in Indonesia and oil-palm plantations can be planted on degraded forest lands, forest clearing is permissible as long as the process is declared to be the first step in establishing a plantation. Thus oil-palm plantations often replace natural forests. Of particular concern to forest watchers is a 2-million-hectare project planned for central Kalimantan on the island of Borneo. The plan—funded by China and supported by the Indonesian government—has been widely criticized by environmental groups who say that the conversion of natural forest for monocultures of palm trees threatens biodiversity and ecological services. The World Wildlife Fund, which has been particularly vocal in condemning the scheme and has a number of scientists on the ground assessing the potentially affected region, has issued several reports on the region's biological diversity (361 new species were discovered between 1994 and 2004 in Borneo).
The fastest and cheapest way to clear new land for plantations is by burning. Every year hundreds of thousands of acres hectares go up in smoke as developers and agriculturalists feverishly light fires before monsoon rains begin to fall. In dry years—especially during strong el Niño years—these fires can burn out of control for months on end, creating deadly pollution that affects neighboring countries and causes political tempers to flare.
In 1982-1983 more than 9.1 million acres (3.7 million ha) burned on the island of Borneo before monsoon rains arrived, while more than 2 million hectares of forest and scrub land burned during the 1997-1998 el Niño event, causing $9.3 billion in losses. The fires also produced wide-ranging and severe economic, political, social, health, and ecological damage to Indonesia and the neighboring Southeast Asian nations of Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, and Thailand, already in the midst of an economic crisis. Satellite analysis of the 1997-1998 fires revealed that 80 percent of the fires could be linked to plantations or logging concession holders.
The haze from the 2005-2006 fires resulted in heated exchanges between Indonesian and Malaysian government officials. Malaysia and Singapore have offered assistance in fighting Indonesian blazes, while simultaneously placing blame on the country for its lack of progress in controlling the wild fires. Indonesia in turn blamed Malaysian firms for rampant illegal logging in the country, which left its forests more susceptible to conflagrations.
Despite some protective measures, including an Indonesian proposal to implement the death penalty for illegal loggers and fire starters, such fires are only expected to worsen in the future as the region's forests face increasingly dry conditions due to climate change and degradation.
Fires in Indonesia's peat swamps are particularly damaging due to the high carbon content of the ecosystem—Dr Susan Page, of the University of Leicester, estimates that Southeast Asian peat lands may contain up to 21 percent of the world's land-based carbon. The 1997 fires released 2.67 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Fires in Indonesia were worsened by the government's misguided transmigration program which moved poor families from the crowded central islands to the less populated outer islands. In the program's two-plus decades, more than six million migrants—730,000 families—were relocated to Kalimantan, Irian Jaya, Sulawesi, and Sumatra. Ignorant of cultivation methods in these areas, many transmigrants fared poorly. In 1995, former President Suharto initiated the "One Million Hectare Project," an ambitious project to move 300,000 families from Java to central Kalimantan and increase rice production by 2.7 million tons per year. For two years, workers cleared the forests and dug almost 3,000 miles of canals with the intended purpose of keeping the soil drained in the rainy season and crops irrigated in the dry season. But because the peat lands were higher than the rivers, the plan backfired as the canals carried all the moisture out of the peat lands. The failures of the project were compounded by an eight-month drought from an especially intense El Nińo year. In 1997, the dried-out peat lands ignited. Fires in other parts of Indonesia have been linked to colonist settlements established during the transmigration program.
Mining operations have a devastating effect on the forest and tribal peoples of Indonesia. The largest and best known of such projects is the Freeport mine in Irian Jaya, run by Freeport-McMoRan. Freeport-McMoRan, based in New Orleans, has operated the Mount Ertsberg gold, silver, and copper mine in Irian Jaya, Indonesia, for more than 20 years and has converted the mountain into a 600-meter hole. As documented by the New York Times and dozens of environmental groups, the mining company has dumped appalling amounts of waste into local streams, rendering downstream waterways and wetlands "unsuitable for aquatic life." Relying on large payments to military officials, the mining operation is protected by a virtual private army that has been implicated in the deaths of an estimated 160 people between 1975 and 1997 in the mine area.
Freeport estimates that it generates 700,000 tons of waste a day and that the waste rock stored in the highlands—900 feet deep in places—now covers about three square miles. Government surveys have found that tailings from the mines have produced levels of copper and sediment so high that almost all fish have disappeared from nearly 90 square miles of wetlands downstream from the operation.
Cracking down on the Freeport's environmental abuses and questionable human-rights practices has proved a challenge since the mine is one of the largest sources of revenue for the Indonesian government. An Indonesian government scientist wrote that "the mine's production was so huge, and regulatory tools so weak, that it was like 'painting on clouds' to persuade Freeport to comply with the ministry's requests to reduce environmental damage," according to a Dec. 27, 2005, article in the New York Times.
Cronyism and Corruption
Forest management in Indonesia has long been plagued by corruption. Underpaid government officials combined with the prevalence of disreputable businessmen and shifty politicians, mean logging bans go unenforced, trafficking in endangered species is overlooked, environmental regulations are ignored, parks are used as timber farms, and fines and prison sentences never come to pass. Corruption was cemented in place under the rule of ex-president General Haji Mohammad Soeharto (Suharto), who gained control in 1967 after participating in a 1965 seizure of power by the military. Under his rule, cronyism was rife, and many of his close relatives and associates built up tremendous wealth through subsidies and unfair business practices.
This tradition of crony capitalism played an important role in the government's poor response to forest fires during the 1997-1998 crisis. According to the IMF's managing director, Indonesia was unable to use its special off-budget reforestation fund to help combat the fires because the money had been ear-marked for a failing car project owned by Suharto's son. Though the fund contained billions drawn from timber taxes, it has long been used as a convenient way to distribute wealth back to Indonesia's circle of economic elite, the bedfellows of the former strongman. The IMF said that the fund has mostly been used to provide low-interest loans to commercial timber and plantation companies for land clearing and replanting virgin rainforest with fast-growing pine, eucalyptus, and acacia trees for pulp production.
Indonesia's forests face a discouragingly grim future. While the country has nearly 400 protected areas, the sanctity of these reserves is virtually nonexistent. With its wildlife, forests, coral reefs, cultural attractions, and warm seas, Indonesia has tremendous potential for eco-tourism, but to date most tourism is focused on cheap beach holidays. Sex tourism is a problem in parts of the country, and tourism itself has caused social issues and environmental problems from forest clearing, mangrove development, pollution, and resort construction.
Jokowi must strengthen Indonesia's forest moratorium, not just extend it: activists
(04/25/2015) Less than a month before the expiry of a moratorium on new licenses for land-based exploitation in primary forests and on peat, environmentalists are calling for the Indonesian president to not only prolong the policy but strengthen it too, hampered as they say it has been by chaotic implementation, weak enforcement, standards that donât go far enough and, some suggest, a lack of political will to see it through.
Thailand, Indonesia join forces against illegal fishing amid EU ultimatum
(04/24/2015) Amid EU threats to blacklist Thai seafood if the industry fails to clean up its act by October, the Southeast Asian country and its neighbor Indonesia agreed on Thursday to form a joint task force to combat illegal fishing, which remains in the spotlight in the wake of an Associated Press investigation into slavery aboard Thai-run ships in Indonesian waters.
Officials: Sumatran rhino is extinct in the wild in Sabah
(04/23/2015) There are no Sumatran rhinos left in the wild in the Malaysian state of Sabah, confirmed Masidi Manjun, the Tourism, Culture and EnviÂronment Minister, over the weekend. In 2008, conservationists estimated there were around 50 rhinos in the state. Five years later, it dropped that estimate to just ten. Now, it's admitted the awful truth: the wild rhino is very likely gone.
In Indonesia, making REDD+ about carbon won't help biodiversity: study
(04/23/2015) Areas important for carbon correlate poorly with areas important for biodiversity in the country, a reality future REDD+ planning must take into account, a new study contends. The research was meant to address claims that REDD+ offers huge opportunities for biodiversity conservation.
Activists target Roger Federer as brand ambassador for bank linked to deforestation
(04/22/2015) Environmentalists are asking tennis star Roger Federer to deliver a message to Credit Suisse over the banking giant's continued financing of a logging company linked to ongoing destruction of wildlife habitat in Indonesia. According to the Bruno Manser Fund two members of a rainforest community in Sumatra have written to Federer to ask for his help in persuading Credit Suisse to stop financing logging of peat forests.
Photo essay: the flying fox show
(04/22/2015) Rain or clear, wind or still, full moon or no. Every night thousands of flying foxes rise from a small mangrove island among the lesser Sunda islands of Indonesia. Around sunset the Sunda flying fox begin to stir in their roots—their stomachs waking them—until the boldest among them takes off into the sky.
Farmers fall short in legal challenge to Java cement plant
(04/20/2015) A grassroots movement to halt construction of a cement factory and mine in Indonesia's Rembang regency suffered a major setback last week when a Central Java court rejected a lawsuit against a permit held by state-owned Semen Indonesia, the country's largest cement producer.
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.
Indonesia's public water movement consolidates after two of its biggest wins
(04/17/2015) With the tide of privatized water in Indonesia as close to turning since the dictator Suharto was president, an entire spectrum of stakeholders is scrambling to chart a path forward on the heels of two landmark â and unexpected â court decisions. First, the Constitutional Court struck down the main governing law on water resources. Then a Jakarta court annulled the city's contract with private operators Palyja and Aetra, which have run the city's piped network since 1998 amid continual allegations of corruption and mismanagement.
Criticism of GAR and Wilmar African oil palm projects highlight global âno-deforestation' challenges
(04/16/2015) Despite high-profile no-deforestation policies, palm oil giants Golden Agri-Resources and Wilmar have attracted criticism recently over their projects in Africa, particularly regarding the correct implementation of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of affected communities. Some NGOs have suggested these persistent problems indicate no lessons have been learned from years of bad practice in Indonesia.
Americans join in protesting reclamation of Bali's Benoa Bay
(04/14/2015) Americans and Indonesians demonstrated in Washington D.C. last week in protest of a massive land reclamation project in Baliâs Benoa Bay, to which opposition, activists say, is coming from increasingly international circles. Meanwhile, the governor of East Java rejected a proposal to dredge sea sand for the project off the coast of his province.
Who's to blame for forest loss in Borneo timber concession?
(04/06/2015) The apparent loss of some 4,000 hectares of forested peatland in Indonesian Borneo is raising questions on who bears responsibility for forest clearing in un-utilized concessions. On Monday, Greenomics-Indonesia issued a report revealing the loss of significant tracts of peat forest in a West Kalimantan concession held by PT Bumi Mekar Hijau (BMH), a plantation company whose operation in South Sumatra supplies Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) with woodpulp for its mills.
Fighting fire with money: can finance protect Indonesiaâs forests?
(04/06/2015) In previous articles, we have seen an overview of the problems with the Indonesian palm oil industry. Such problems are largely caused by rent-seeking politicians and businessmen, who are willing to sacrifice endangered wildlife, the health of their countrymen and long-term environmental stability in the pursuit of profit. These actors exert a significant influence on and within the Indonesian government. As a result, Indonesia remains conflicted between the opposing goals of conservation and economic growth.
Aceh's purge of illegal oil palm at 3,000 hectares and counting
(04/06/2015) A joint effort to eradicate illegal oil palm in an area of Indonesia's Aceh province that was devastated by flash flooding in 2006 has passed the 3,000-hectare mark. The plantations lie within the protected Leuser Ecosystem, the last place on earth where the Sumatran rhino, elephant, tiger and orangutan coexist in the wild.
Blockade at Wilmar mill could erupt into full-blown strike
(04/03/2015) Local people blocked the road to a Wilmar palm oil mill in Indonesiaâs West Kalimantan province, demanding the release of nine day laborers who were arrested during an earlier protest over delayed wages. Trucks carrying fresh fruit bunches from nearby plantations were unable to deliver their cargo.
Could inland aquaculture help save the oceans and feed the world?
(04/02/2015) Mark Kwok has always loved the ocean. An avid diver and spear fisherman, he has travelled the planet in search of exotic fish and undersea adventure. Born into a wealthy Hong Kong family, he had the freedom to explore the worldâs oceans. But in the last decade or so, he hasnât been content just looking at fish. Heâs been growing them. In a squat, unassuming cluster of buildings in an industrial suburb north of Hong Kong, Kwok is experimenting with a potentially revolutionary technology.
Reservations about Indonesian 'land reform' as details unclear
(04/02/2015) Indonesian civil society groups and experts welcome President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's campaign promise to redistribute nine million hectares of land to farmers â in principle. But they remain wary of what the program, whose details have yet to be made clear, might look like in practice. These reservations were expressed at a discussion on the plan held in Jakarta on April 1.
Russia and Canada lead the world in forest loss in 2013
(04/02/2015) Russia and Canada led the world in forest loss, accounting for nearly forty percent of the 18 million hectares of forest lost globally in 2013, reveals a new analysis based on high resolution satellite imagery. The research — released today on Global Forest Watch, a forest monitoring and research platform — was led by Matt Hansen of the University of Maryland and involved Google, World Resources Institute (WRI), and other institutions
Illegal deforestation driven by EU appetite for beef, palm oil, soy, say new reports
(04/01/2015) A new report finds that the European Union is driving international trade in commodities grown on land cleared outside of the law. In 2012 alone, the report says, the EU imported $6.5 billion worth of illegally sourced beef, leather, palm oil and soy, which amounts to nearly one-fourth of all global trade and some 2.4 million hectares (59.3 million acres) of forest illegally cleared.
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.