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SRI LANKA

Sri Lanka Forest Figures

Forest Cover
Total forest area: 1,933,000 ha
% of land area: 29.9%

Primary forest cover: 167,000 ha
% of land area: 2.6%
% total forest area: 8.6%

Deforestation Rates, 2000-2005
Annual change in forest cover: -29,800 ha
Annual deforestation rate: -1.5%
Change in defor. rate since '90s: 25.5%
Total forest loss since 1990: -417,000 ha
Total forest loss since 1990:-17.7%

Primary or "Old-growth" forests
Annual loss of primary forests: -6000 ha
Annual deforestation rate: -3.0%
Change in deforestation rate since '90s: 30.5%
Primary forest loss since 1990: -30,000 ha
Primary forest loss since 1990:-35.0%

Forest Classification
Public: 92.5%
Private: 7.5%
Other: n/a
Use
Production: 8.8%
Protection: 1%
Conservation: 28.9%
Social services: n/a
Multiple purpose: 61.3%
None or unknown: n/a

Forest Area Breakdown
Total area: 1,933,000 ha
Primary: 167,000 ha
Modified natural: 1,571,000 ha
Semi-natural: n/a
Production plantation: 171,000 ha
Production plantation: 24,000 ha

Plantations
Plantations, 2005: 195,000 ha
% of total forest cover: 10.1%
Annual change rate (00-05): -5,141,000 ha

Carbon storage
Above-ground biomass: 64 M t
Below-ground biomass: 15 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: 932
Critically endangered: 78
Endangered: 73
Vulnerable: 129

Wood removal 2005
Industrial roundwood: 763,000 m3 o.b.
Wood fuel: 5,879,000 m3 o.b.

Value of forest products, 2005
Industrial roundwood: $45,796,000
Wood fuel: $35,484,000
Non-wood forest products (NWFPs): n/a
Total Value: $81,280,000


More forest statistics for Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has high biodiversity distributed in a range of ecosystems from rainforests to savannas. About 27 percent of the country's plants are endemic and 22 percent of its amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles. In 2005, researchers confirmed the discovery of 35 new frog species in Sri Lanka over the past decade. Sri Lanka is known as a global biodiversity hotspot for its high number of species in a relatively limited area. The island's frog diversity illustrates this point: despite covering only 0.013 percent of the world's land surface, Sri Lanka is home to more than 2 percent percent of the world's known frog and toad species. The island is also home to 3,210 flowering plant species, of which 916 species are endemic.

While Sri Lanka may be known for its biodiversity, this biological wealth is highly threatened—the same survey found that 17 of Sri Lanka's frogs have disappeared in the past decade and another 11 species face imminent extinction unless their habitat is protected. Habitat loss is the leading threat to Sri Lanka's native ecosystems. Conservation International estimates that only around 1.5 percent of the island's original forest remains (FAO figures are more optimistic). Much of this forest was lost under British colonial rule, when large tracts of forest were cleared for rubber, coffee, and tea plantations, but Sri Lanka's forests have also suffered dearly under years of civil war which has led to large-scale forest clearing. During the 1980s and early 1990s, government soldiers cleared the island's rainforests because they served as refuges for rebel forces. At the same time, fighting destroyed homes and displaced small-scale farmers who then sought new lands in forested areas. Government figures show that the army and Tamil rebels felled more than 2.5 million palmyrah trees alone for construction purposes. In the wake of the tsunami which killed some 31,000 people and caused more than $1.5 billion in property damage, reconstruction efforts have only increased the pressure on Sri Lanka's forests.

Over the past 15 years (1990-2005), Sri Lanka has had one of the highest deforestation rates of primary forests in the world. In that period the country lost more than 35 percent of its old-growth forest cover, while total forest cover was diminished by almost 18 percent. Worse, since the close of the 1990s, deforestation rates have increased by more than 25 percent.

Recent articles | Sri Lanka news updates | XML

On track to 'go beyond the critical point': Sri Lanka still losing forests at rapid clip
(07/15/2014) During the latter half of Sri Lanka's civl war, between 1990 and 2005, Sri Lanka suffered one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, losing about 35 percent of its old growth forest and almost 18 percent of its total forest cover. The conflict ended in 2009, and while deforestation has slowed somewhat, Sri Lanka is still losing forest cover at a fast pace.


Singapore intercepts massive illegal shipment of Madagascar rosewood
(06/03/2014) Authorities in Singapore have made the largest-ever international seizure of rosewood logs, providing further evidence that industrial-scale smuggling of Madagascar's rainforest timber continues despite an official ban on the trade. Details of the seizure remain sparse since the investigation is still active, but leaked correspondence between officials in Madagascar indicates that the shipment amounts to 3,000 tons, or more than 29,000 illicit rosewood logs.


Epidemic of elephant calf kidnapping hits Sri Lanka, say conservationists
(05/21/2014) In Sri Lanka, an underground wildlife racket has been simmering for a while. And a recent incident has brought it to a boil. On the night of May 1st, a gang attempted to kidnap a wild elephant calf out of the Uduwalawe National Park in Sri Lanka. But tipped off by alert villagers, police and wildlife officers foiled the abduction.


Scientists discover new gecko hanging-on in single forest fragment
(02/17/2014) Scientists have identified a new species of day gecko that is the largest in its genus (Cnemaspis) to be found in Sri Lanka. To date, it has been observed only within the Rammalakanda Reserve in southern Sri Lanka, an area spanning just 1,700 hectares, raising questions about the viability of this population and hence the species' long-term prospects.


Not seen in over 130 years, 'extinct' frog rediscovered in Sri Lanka
(01/10/2014) In 1876—the same year that the first telephone call was made—the British scientist Albert G√ľnther described a new species of frog from Sri Lanka, but the species, known as the webless shrub frog (Pseudophilautus hypomelas), was never seen again. Having disappeared into history, scientists considered the species extinct—that is until a 2010 expedition stumbled on 40 mystery frogs.


Little elephant is the first scientific record of dwarfism in the wild
(12/19/2013) Biologists in Sri Lanka have published the first documented evidence of dwarfism in an adult wild animal. A male Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) measuring just over 1.5 meters (five feet) in height was seen in an aggressive encounter with another male of average size. The elephant's small stature was due to disproportionately short legs, according to the findings published in the IUCN/SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group journal Gajah. "The 'dwarf' was by far the main aggressor in the altercation and appeared to be older than the other, a young adult," states the study. "Other than for the disproportionately short legs, morphologically and behaviorally the dwarf appeared normal."


Asian elephants depend on shifting cultivation during the dry season
(12/16/2013) Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) have co-existed with human practices for thousands of years, including shifting cultivation. Shifting agriculture encompasses a variety of different practices that involve abandoning plots for periods of time to allow natural vegetation to grow. The practice consists of cutting and burning the natural vegetation at the end of the dry season and cultivating with the rains. Harvesting is completed by the end of the wet season.


Sri Lankan elephant amnesty will lead to poaching, warn conservationists
(12/03/2013) Environmentalists have responded with alarm to a proposed amnesty permitting the registration of illegally captured elephants in Sri Lanka. Recent reports in Sri Lankan media have outlined the proposal, stating that during the amnesty period it would be possible to register elephant calves for a fee of about $7,600. Elephants are closely linked with Sri Lankan history and culture, and are considered sacred in both Buddhism and Hinduism. But the situation for elephants in the country is complicated.


Scientists outline how to save nearly 70 percent of the world's plant species
(09/05/2013) In 2010 the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) pledged to set aside 17 percent of the world's land as protected areas in addition to protecting 60 percent of the world's plant species—through the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC)—by 2020. Now a new study in Science finds that the world can achieve both ambitious goals at the same time—if only we protect the right places. Looking at data on over 100,000 flower plants, scientists determined that protecting 17 percent of the world's land (focusing on priority plant areas) would conserve 67 percent of the world's plants.


Loris champion: conserving the world's most surprising primate family
(06/04/2013) Before Anna Nekaris began championing the cause of the world's lorises, little was known about this cryptic family of large-eyed, nocturnal, insect-eating, venomous primates. Nekaris, with Oxford Brookes University and founder of the Little Fireface project, has been instrumental in documenting rarely-seen loris behavior, establishing conservation programs, and identifying new species of these hugely-imperiled Asian primates.


New giant tarantula that's taken media by storm likely Critically Endangered (photos)
(04/04/2013) Described by a number of media outlets as "the size of your face" a new tree-dwelling tarantula discovered in Sri Lanka has awed arachnophiliacs and terrified arachnophobes alike. But the new species, named Raja's tiger spider (Poecilotheria rajaei), is likely Critically Endangered according to the scientist that discovered it in northern Sri Lanka.


Scientists discover 8 new frogs in one sanctuary, nearly all Critically Endangered (photos)
(03/21/2013) Two surveys in the mountainous forests of Sri Lanka's Peak Wilderness Sanctuary have uncovered eight new species of frogs, according to a massive new paper in the Journal of Threatened Taxa. While every year over a hundred new amphibians are discovered, eight new discoveries in a single park is especially notable. Sri Lanka is an amphibian-lovers paradise with well over 100 described species, most of which are endemic, i.e. found only on the small island country. Unfortunately the country has also seen more frog extinctions than anywhere else, and seven of the eight new species are already thought to be Critically Endangered.


Starry frog rediscovered after thought extinct for 160 years (photos)
(03/07/2013) In 1853 Edward Frederick Kelaart, a physician and naturalist, collected a strange frog on the island of Sri Lanka then a British colony known as Ceylon. The specimen was a large shrub frog (about 2 inches or 5.5 centimeters long) with black-outlined white specks on lime-green skin. He dubbed it "starry" after its pale specks, but that was last anyone heard of it. Even the holotype—the body of the amphibian collected by Kelaart—went missing. Fast forward nearly 160 years—two world wars, Sri Lanka's independence, and a man on the moon—when a recent expedition into Sri Lanka's Peak Wilderness rediscovered a beguiling frog with pinkish specks.


Biofuel company caught clearing elephant habitat in Sri Lanka
(02/20/2013) A biofuel plantation near Yala National Park has landed Lanka Orex Leasing Company PLC (LOLC) in Sri Lanka's highest court. Environmentalists say the company is illegally bulldozing Asian elephant habitat, including scrubland and tree stands, near the buffer zone of Yala National Park for gliricidia (Gliricidia sepium) biofuel plantation.


Sri Lanka to give poached ivory to Buddhist temple, flouting international agreements
(02/05/2013) The Sri Lankan government is planning to give 359 elephant tusks to a Buddhist temple, a move that critics say is flouting the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The illegal tusks were seized in Sri Lanka last May en route to Dubai from Kenya; they are believed to stem from hundreds of butchered elephants, including juveniles, inside Africa, possibly Uganda. The decision comes after a high-profile National Geographic article, Ivory Worship, outlined how demand for ivory religious handicrafts, particularly by Catholics and Buddhists, is worsening the current poaching crisis. In 2011, it was estimated that 25,000 elephants were illegally slaughtered for their tusks.


New rare frog discovered in Sri Lanka, but left wholly unprotected
(11/05/2012) Sri Lanka, an island country lying off the southeast coast of India, has long been noted for its vast array of biodiversity. Islands in general are renowned for their weird and wonderful creatures, including high percentages of endemic species—and Sri Lanka, where scientists recently discovered a new frog species, is no exception.


Extinct toad rediscovered after hiding for 133 years in Sri Lanka
(06/18/2012) A small toad not seen since 1876, and considered by many to be extinct, has been rediscovered in a stream in Sri Lanka. First recorded in 1872, the Kandyan dwarf toad had (Adenomus kandianus) vanished for over a century before being found by scientists during a survey in 2009 in the Peak Wilderness Sanctuary, according to a new paper in Zootaxa.


Nearly 2,000 fish species traded in U.S. tropical aquarium market
(05/24/2012) The U.S. tropical aquarium market poses problems and opportunities for conservation, according to a landmark study published in the open-access journal PLoS ONE. The study reviewed import records in the U.S. for one year (2004-2005) and found that over 11 million wild tropical fish from 1,802 species were imported from 40 different countries. While the number of fish species targeted surprised researchers, the total amount of fish imported was actually less than expected.


Growing cardamom impacts forests for decades
(05/17/2012) Over 25 years after people stopped growing cardamom in Sri Lanka's Knuckles Forest Reserve (KFR), the spice crop is still having an impact on the forest, according to a recent study in Forest Ecology and Management. The clearing of understory plants and the use of fertilizers continue to shape the forest in the protected area.


Cute baby animal photos of the day: twin slender lorises born at London Zoo
(02/27/2012) Twin grey slender lorises (Loris lydekkerianus) were born in the Zoological Society of London's (ZSL) zoo in London this month, a notable event since lorises rarely give birth to twins. Found in India and Sri Lanka, these nocturnal, big-eyed primates scour trees for insects. Although listed as Least Concern, the species is imperiled by deforestation, impacts from cats, electrocution on power lines, use in traditional medicine, and the pet trade.


Environmental news in review: Keystone pipeline delayed, Dole exits banana project, a rhino goes extinct
(12/02/2011) November 2011 was a big month for environmental news stories. Topping the list was the Obama Administration's decision to delay the controversial Keystone pipeline which would have carried tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast. The scheme was vehemently opposed by environmental groups which turned the issue into a litmus test for Obama, whose campaign platform included a promise to take action on greenhouse gas emissions. More than 1,200 protesters were arrested in demonstrations leading up to Obama's decision.


Dole abandons banana plantation in National Park
(11/21/2011) After a threat of lawsuit, Dole Inc. has abandoned a banana plantation in Somawathiya National Park in Sri Lanka. The US-based food giant had partnered with a local company, Letsgrow Ltd, to grow bananas for export markets at the bank of the Mahaweli River, but Dole ran into trouble when local conservation organizations pointed out they were illegally destroying forest and planting crops in Somawathiya National Park, home to elephants and many other imperiled species. Local group, Environmental Foundation Limited (EFL), obtained past and current satellite images to prove that the company was operation within the park.


Satellite imagery confirms Dole destroying national park land for bananas
(10/04/2011) Environmental NGOs in Sri Lanka have accused US food giant Dole of illegally growing bananas in Somawathiya National Park, however Dole has denied the charge saying the land in question is 'not in the [park]'. Mongabay.com has received the coordinates of the Dole plantation from an anonymous source in Sri Lanka familiar with the issue, and using Google Earth has found that the plantation in question is clearly inside park boundaries.


Dole responds to allegations it is illegally growing bananas in national park
(10/02/2011) Dole Food Company has responded to allegations that it is clearing land in a national park in Sri Lanka known for its population of elephants as well as a number of threatened species. According to reports, the US-based food giant has partnered with a local company, Letsgrow Ltd, to grow bananas for export markets in Somawathiya National Park.


Dole destroying forest in national park for bananas
(08/14/2011) Dole Food Company, a US-based corporation famous for its tropical fruit products, is allegedly destroying rainforest in Somawathiya National Park in Sri Lanka for a banana plantation reports local press. The 4,700 hectare (11,600 acre) plantation, reportedly handed to local company Letsgrow by Sri Lanka's military, imperils an elephant migration route and a number of tropical species. Letsgrow has partnered with Dole on the plantation work, already clearing almost half the area, described as 'thick jungle'. Sri Lanka, which has only come out of a decades-long civil war in 2009, is currently seeking a rise in agricultural development.


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Unless otherwise specified, this article was written by Rhett A. Butler [Bibliographic citation for this page]

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Last updated: 4 Feb 2006






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