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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
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, 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.

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Last updated: 4 Feb 2006

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