RAINFOREST INFORMATION

By Rhett A. Butler  Last updated Aug 14, 2020

A Place Out of Time: Tropical Rainforests and the Perils They Face - information on tropical forests, deforestation, and biodiversity

RAINFOREST FACTS

  • Tropical forests presently cover about 1.84 billion hectares or about 12 percent of Earth's land surface (3.6% of Earth's surface).
  • The world's largest rainforest is the Amazon rainforest
  • Brazil has the largest extent of rainforest cover, including nearly two-thirds of the Amazon.
  • Rainforests also exist outside the tropics, including temperate North America, South America, Australia, and Russia.
  • An estimated 50 percent of terrestrial biodiversity is found in rainforests
  • Rainforests are thought to store at least 250 billion tons of carbon
  • Deforestation and degradation of tropical forests account for roughly 10 percent of global greenhouse emissions from human activities

 

Sections:

 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON THE RAINFOREST

Rainforests are forest ecosystems characterized by high levels of rainfall, an enclosed canopy and high species diversity. While tropical rainforests are the best-known type of rainforest and the focus of this section of the web site, rainforests are actually found widely around the world, including temperate regions in Canada, the United States, and the former Soviet Union.

Tropical rainforests typically occur in the equatorial zone between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn, latitudes that have warm temperatures and relatively constant year-round sunlight. Tropical rainforests merge into other types of forest depending on the altitude, latitude, and various soil, flooding, and climate conditions. These forest types form a mosaic of vegetation types which contribute to the incredible diversity of the tropics.

The bulk of the world's tropical rainforest occurs in the Amazon Basin in South America. The Congo Basin and Southeast Asia, respectively, have the second and third largest areas of tropical rainforest. Rainforests also exist on some the Caribbean islands, in Central America, in India, on scattered islands in the South Pacific, in Madagascar, in West and East Africa outside the Congo Basin, in Central America and Mexico, and in parts of South America outside the Amazon. Brazil has the largest extent of rainforest of any country on Earth.

 

Rainforests provide important ecological services, including storing hundreds of billions of tons of carbon, buffering against flood and drought, stabilizing soils, influencing rainfall patterns, and providing a home to wildlife and Indigenous people. Rainforests are also the source of many useful products upon which local communities depend.

While rainforests are critically important to humanity, they are rapidly being destroyed by human activities. The biggest cause of deforestation is conversion of forest land for agriculture. In the past subsistence agriculture was the primary driver of rainforest conversion, but today industrial agriculture — especially monoculture and livestock production — is the dominant driver of rainforest loss worldwide. Logging is the biggest cause of forest degradation and usually proceeds deforestation for agriculture.

Organization of this site

The rainforest section of Mongabay is divided into ten "chapters" (the original text for the site was a book, but has since been adapted for the web), with add-on content in the form of special focal sections (e.g. The Amazon, the Congo, REDD, New Guinea, Sulawesi, Forests in Brazil, etc), appendices, and other resources.

There is also a version of the site geared toward younger readers at kids.mongabay.com.

Tropical rainforest in Borneo. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

ABOUT THE RAINFOREST (SUMMARY)

Chapter 1:

RAINFOREST DISTRIBUTION AND CHARACTERISTICS

Each rainforest is unique, but there are certain features common to all tropical rainforests.

  • Location: rainforests lie in the tropics.
  • Rainfall: rainforests receive at least 80 inches (200 cm) of rain per year.
  • Canopy: rainforests have a canopy, which is the layer of branches and leaves formed by closely spaced rainforest trees some 30 meters (100 feet) off the ground. A large proportion of the plants and animals in the rainforest live in the canopy.
  • Biodiversity: rainforests have extraordinarily highs level of biological diversity or “biodiversity”. Scientists estimate that about half of Earth's terrestrial species live in rainforests.
  • Ecosystem services: rainforests provide a critical ecosystem services at local, regional, and global scales, including producing oxygen (tropical forests are responsible for 25-30 percent of the world's oxygen turnover) and storing carbon (tropical forests store an estimated 229-247 billion tons of carbon) through photosynthesis; influencing precipitation patterns and weather; moderating flood and drought cycles; and facilitating nutrient cycling; among others.

The global distribution of tropical rainforests can be broken up into four biogeographical realms based roughly on four forested continental regions: the Afrotropical, the Australiasian, the Indomalayan/Asian, and the Neotropical. Just over half the world's rainforests lie in the Neotropical realm, roughly a quarter are in Africa, and a fifth in Asia.

Map showing the world's rainforests, defined as primary forests in the tropics. Click to enlarge.

These realms can be further divided into major tropical forest regions based on biodiversity hotspots, including:

  1. Amazon: Includes parts of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela
  2. Congo: Includes parts of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Republic of Congo
  3. Australiasia: Includes parts of Australia, Indonesian half of New Guinea, Papua New Guinea
  4. Sundaland: Includes parts of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore
  5. Indo-Burma: Includes parts of Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam
  6. Mesoamerica: Includes parts of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama
  7. Wallacea: Sulawesi and the Maluku islands in Indonesia
  8. West Africa: Includes parts of Benin, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Togo
  9. Atlantic forest: Includes parts of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay
  10. Choco: Includes parts of Colombia, Ecuador, Panama

Dozens of countries have tropical forests. The countries with the largest areas of tropical forest are:

  • Brazil
  • Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
  • Indonesia
  • Peru
  • Colombia

Other countries that have large areas of rainforest include Bolivia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Ecuador, Gabon, Guyana, India, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Congo, Suriname, and Venezuela.

Cover and loss by rainforest region

Primary forest extentTree cover extent
Rainforest region200120102020200120102020
Amazon556.7543.5526.2673.4658.6628.9
Congo173.7172.2167.6301.2300.3287.7
Australiasia61.865.464.476.391.389.1
Sundaland39.957.351.067.7121.6103.1
Indo-Burma15.342.640.137.8153.0139.1
Mesoamerica43.717.416.0160.354.349.8
Wallacea18.115.214.656.226.124.5
West Africa9.810.910.215.648.541.8
Atlantic forest11.19.79.349.396.389.0
Choco10.08.58.499.815.915.6
PAN-TROPICS1,029.61,006.5969.12,028.31,959.41,839.1

 

Primary forest lossTree cover change
2002-092010-192002-092010-19
Rainforest regionM ha (%)M ha (%)M ha (%)M ha (%)
Amazon-13.18 (-2.4%)-17.28 (-3.2%)-14.7 (-2.2%)-29.8 (-4.5%)
Congo-1.46 (-0.8%)-4.68 (-2.7%)-0.8 (-0.3%)-12.7 (-4.2%)
Australiasia-0.29 (-0.5%)-0.86 (-1.3%)0.2 (0.2%)-1.4 (-1.5%)
Sundaland-2.22 (-5.5%)-3.67 (-6.4%)-1.5 (-2.3%)-9.5 (-7.8%)
Indo-Burma-1.62 (-10.5%)-2.14 (-5.0%)-0.6 (-1.6%)-6.4 (-4.2%)
Mesoamerica-1.10 (-2.5%)-2.51 (-14.4%)-7.3 (-4.6%)-13.9 (-25.6%)
Wallacea-0.66 (-3.6%)-1.36 (-8.9%)-1.9 (-3.3%)-4.6 (-17.5%)
West Africa-0.30 (-3.1%)-0.50 (-4.6%)-0.1 (-0.8%)-1.2 (-2.4%)
Atlantic forest-0.24 (-2.1%)-0.62 (-6.4%)-0.7 (-1.5%)-6.8 (-7.0%)
Choco-0.33 (-3.3%)-0.35 (-4.1%)-3.5 (-3.5%)-7.3 (-46.0%)
PAN-TROPICS-23.11 (-2.2%)-37.34 (-3.7%)-68.9 (-3.4%)-120.3 (-6.1%)

 

Bar chart showing the world's largest rainforests as defined by the area of primary forest cover according to Hansen / WRI 2020.
Bar chart showing the world's largest rainforests as defined by the area of primary forest cover according to Hansen / WRI 2020.
Tropical primary forest cover and tree cover by country in 2020

Tropical forest cover and loss by country

Units: million hectaresPrimary forest extentTree cover extent
2001
Country200120102020200120102020
Brazil343.2331.9318.7516.4498.1468.2
DR Congo104.6103.499.8198.8198.5188.0
Indonesia93.890.284.4159.8157.7141.7
Colombia54.854.253.381.681.779.3
Peru69.168.567.277.978.676.5
Bolivia40.839.938.164.462.758.9
Venezuela38.638.538.156.457.356.1
Angola2.52.42.349.748.346.8
Central African Republic7.47.37.246.947.146.6
Papua New Guinea32.632.431.942.942.941.9
Mexico9.29.08.643.342.540.3
China1.71.71.742.841.138.5
Myanmar14.013.813.542.840.938.2
India10.210.19.935.131.430.2
Cameroon19.119.018.530.629.728.7
Republic of Congo21.221.120.826.426.626.0
Argentina4.44.24.030.927.624.9
Gabon22.722.622.424.724.724.4
Malaysia15.915.013.329.128.623.8
Mozambique0.10.10.126.625.023.1
Tanzania0.70.70.721.820.619.3
Guyana17.317.317.219.019.118.9
Ecuador10.610.610.518.318.518.1
Thailand5.95.95.819.819.017.7
Philippines4.64.54.418.318.117.4
Paraguay3.53.02.523.920.216.6
Zambia0.30.30.318.517.416.6
Laos8.38.17.519.117.915.4
Suriname12.812.712.613.914.013.9
Rest of the tropics59.658.053.9210.1203.5183.3
Grand Total1,029.61,006.5969.12,009.71,959.41,839.1

 

Primary forest lossTree cover change
2002-092010-20192002-092010-2019
CountryM ha (%)M ha (%)M ha (%)M ha (%)
Brazil-11.37 (-3.3%)-13.15 (-4.0%)-18.25 (-3.5%)-29.93 (-6.0%)
DR Congo-1.16 (-1.1%)-3.67 (-3.5%)-0.37 (-0.2%)-10.50 (-5.3%)
Indonesia-3.63 (-3.9%)-5.85 (-6.5%)-2.09 (-1.3%)-15.98 (-10.1%)
Colombia-0.54 (-1.0%)-0.96 (-1.8%)0.17 (0.2%)-2.43 (-3.0%)
Peru-0.60 (-0.9%)-1.37 (-2.0%)0.68 (0.9%)-2.10 (-2.7%)
Bolivia-0.90 (-2.2%)-1.84 (-4.6%)-1.67 (-2.6%)-3.75 (-6.0%)
Venezuela-0.15 (-0.4%)-0.33 (-0.9%)0.86 (1.5%)-1.14 (-2.0%)
Angola-0.03 (-1.2%)-0.09 (-3.8%)-1.37 (-2.8%)-1.51 (-3.1%)
Central African Republic-0.05 (-0.6%)-0.11 (-1.5%)0.15 (0.3%)-0.49 (-1.0%)
Papua New Guinea-0.19 (-0.6%)-0.55 (-1.7%)0.04 (0.1%)-1.05 (-2.4%)
Mexico-0.20 (-2.1%)-0.40 (-4.4%)-0.81 (-1.9%)-2.22 (-5.2%)
China-0.03 (-1.9%)-0.04 (-2.4%)-1.67 (-3.9%)-2.66 (-6.5%)
Myanmar-0.19 (-1.4%)-0.38 (-2.8%)-1.90 (-4.4%)-2.70 (-6.6%)
India-0.13 (-1.2%)-0.20 (-2.0%)-3.67 (-10.5%)-1.18 (-3.8%)
Cameroon-0.11 (-0.6%)-0.50 (-2.6%)-0.96 (-3.1%)-1.02 (-3.4%)
Republic of Congo-0.07 (-0.3%)-0.25 (-1.2%)0.28 (1.0%)-0.60 (-2.2%)
Argentina-0.19 (-4.4%)-0.21 (-5.0%)-3.31 (-10.7%)-2.69 (-9.8%)
Gabon-0.08 (-0.3%)-0.16 (-0.7%)0.02 (0.1%)-0.29 (-1.2%)
Malaysia-0.98 (-6.2%)-1.65 (-11.0%)-0.47 (-1.6%)-4.84 (-16.9%)
Mozambique0.00 (-1.6%)-0.01 (-7.5%)-1.60 (-6.0%)-1.95 (-7.8%)
Tanzania-0.01 (-0.9%)-0.02 (-2.8%)-1.21 (-5.5%)-1.31 (-6.3%)
Guyana-0.03 (-0.2%)-0.09 (-0.5%)0.07 (0.3%)-0.14 (-0.8%)
Ecuador-0.05 (-0.5%)-0.12 (-1.2%)0.20 (1.1%)-0.43 (-2.3%)
Thailand-0.07 (-1.2%)-0.05 (-0.9%)-0.75 (-3.8%)-1.31 (-6.9%)
Philippines-0.05 (-1.1%)-0.09 (-2.1%)-0.18 (-1.0%)-0.80 (-4.4%)
Paraguay-0.46 (-13.3%)-0.53 (-17.7%)-3.69 (-15.4%)-3.60 (-17.8%)
Zambia0.00 (-1.0%)-0.02 (-6.5%)-1.07 (-5.8%)-0.77 (-4.4%)
Laos-0.23 (-2.7%)-0.55 (-6.8%)-1.15 (-6.0%)-2.58 (-14.4%)
Suriname-0.02 (-0.2%)-0.10 (-0.8%)0.05 (0.4%)-0.14 (-1.0%)
Rest of the tropics-1.59 (-2.7%)-4.04 (-7.0%)-6.59 (-3.1%)-20.17 (-9.9%)
Grand Total-23.11 (-2.2%)-37.34 (-3.7%)-50.27 (-2.5%)-120.27 (-6.1%)

 

Chapter 2:

RAINFOREST STRUCTURE

Rainforests are characterized by a unique vegetative structure consisting of several vertical layers including the overstory, canopy, understory, shrub layer, and ground level. The canopy refers to the dense ceiling of leaves and tree branches formed by closely spaced forest trees. The upper canopy is 100-130 feet above the forest floor, penetrated by scattered emergent trees, 130 feet or higher, that make up the level known as the overstory. Below the canopy ceiling are multiple leaf and branch levels known collectively as the understory. The lowest part of the understory, 5-20 feet (1.5-6 meters) above the floor, is known as the shrub layer, made up of shrubby plants and tree saplings.

Chapter 3:

RAINFOREST BIODIVERSITY

Tropical rainforests support the greatest diversity of living organisms on Earth. Although they cover less than 2 percent of Earth’s surface, rainforests house more than 50 percent of the plants and animals on the planet.

There are several reasons why rainforests are so diverse. Some important factors are:
  • Climate: because rainforests are located in tropical regions, they receive a lot of sunlight. The sunlight is converted to energy by plants through the process of photosynthesis. Since there is a lot of sunlight, there is a lot of energy in the rainforest. This energy is stored in plant vegetation, which is eaten by animals. The abundance of energy supports an abundance of plant and animal species.
  • Canopy: the canopy structure of the rainforest provides an abundance of places for plants to grow and animals to live. The canopy offers sources of food, shelter, and hiding places, providing for interaction between different species. For example, there are plants in the canopy called bromeliads that store water in their leaves. Frogs and other animals use these pockets of water for hunting and laying their eggs.
  • Competition: while there is lots of energy in the rainforest system, life is not easy for most species that inhabit the biome. In fact, the rainforest is an intensively competitive place, with species developing incredible strategies and innovations to survive, encouraging specialization.
While species everywhere are known for utilizing symbiotic relationships with other species to survive, the biological phenomenon is particularly abundant in rainforests.

 

Chapter 4:

THE RAINFOREST CANOPY

In the rainforest most plant and animal life is not found on the forest floor, but in the leafy world known as the canopy. The canopy, which may be over 100 feet (30 m) above the ground, is made up of the overlapping branches and leaves of rainforest trees. Scientists estimate that more than half of life in the rainforest is found in the trees, making this the richest habitat for plant and animal life.

The conditions of the canopy are markedly different from the conditions of the forest floor. During the day, the canopy is drier and hotter than other parts of the forest, and the plants and animals that live there have adapted accordingly. For example, because the amount of leaves in the canopy can make it difficult to see more than a few feet, many canopy animals rely on loud calls or lyrical songs for communication. Gaps between trees mean that some canopy animals fly, glide, or jump to move about in the treetops. Meanwhile plants have evolved water-retention mechanisms like waxy leaves.

Scientists have long been interested in studying the canopy, but the height of trees made research difficult until recently. Today the canopy is commonly accessed using climbing gear, rope bridges, ladders, and towers. Researchers are even using model airplanes and quadcopters outfitted with special sensors — conservation drones — to study the canopy.



Chapter 5:

The rainforest floor

The rainforest floor is often dark and humid due to constant shade from the leaves of canopy trees. The canopy not only blocks out sunlight, but dampens wind and rain, and limits shrub growth.

Despite its constant shade, the ground floor of the rainforest is the site for important interactions and complex relationships. The forest floor is one of the principal sites of decomposition, a process paramount for the continuance of the forest as a whole. It provides support for trees responsible for the formation of the canopy and is also home to some of the rainforest's best-known species, including gorillas, tigers, tapirs, and elephants, among others.

Rainforest in Tangkoko National Park, North Sulawesi Province, Indonesia in 2017. Photo by Rhett A. Butler
Chapter 6:

Rainforest waters

Tropical rainforests support some of the largest rivers in the world, like the Amazon, Mekong, Negro, Orinoco, and Congo. These mega-rivers are fed by countless smaller tributaries, streams, and creeks. For example, the Amazon alone has some 1,100 tributaries, 17 of which are over 1,000 miles long. Although large tropical rivers are fairly uniform in appearance and water composition, their tributaries vary greatly.

Rainforest waters are home to a wealth of wildlife that is nearly as diverse as the biota on land. For example, more than 5,600 species of fish have been identified in the Amazon Basin alone.

But like rainforests, tropical ecosystems are also threatened. Dams, deforestation, channelization and dredging, pollution, mining, and overfishing are chief dangers.

Chapter 7:

Rainforest people

Tropical rainforests have long been home to tribal peoples who rely on their surroundings for food, shelter, and medicines. Today very few forest people live in traditional ways; most have been displaced by outside settlers, have been forced to give up their lifestyles by governments, or have chosen to adopt outside customs.

Of the remaining forest people, the Amazon supports the largest number of Indigenous people living in traditional ways, although these people, too, have been impacted by the modern world. Nonetheless, Indigenous peoples' knowledge of medicinal plants remains unmatched and they have a great understanding of the ecology of the Amazon rainforest.

In Africa there are native forest dwellers sometimes known as pygmies. The tallest of these people, also called the Mbuti, rarely exceed 5 feet in height. Their small size enables them to move about the forest more efficiently than taller people.

There are few forest peoples in Asia living in fully traditional ways. The last nomadic people in Borneo are thought to have settled in the late 2000's. New Guinea and the Andaman Islands are generally viewed as the last frontiers for forest people in Asia and the Pacific.

Chapter 8:

Deforestation

Every year an area of rainforest the size of New Jersey is cut down and destroyed, mostly the result of human activities. We are cutting down rainforests for many reasons, including:

  • wood for both timber and making fires;
  • agriculture for both small and large farms;
  • land for poor farmers who don’t have anywhere else to live;
  • grazing land for cattle (the single biggest driver of deforestation in the Amazon);
  • plantations, including wood-pulp for making paper, oil palm for making palm oil, and rubber;
  • road construction; and
  • extraction of minerals and energy.

In recent decades there has been an important shift in deforestation trends. Today export-driven industries are driving a bigger share of deforestation than ever before, marking a shift from previous decades, when most tropical deforestation was the product of poor farmers trying to put food on the table for their families. There are important implications from this change. While companies have a greater capacity to chop down forests than small farmers, they are more sensitive to pressure from environmentalists. Thus in recent years, it has become easier—and more ethical—for green groups to go after corporations than after poor farmers.

Rainforests are also threatened by climate change, which is contributing to droughts in parts of the Amazon and Southeast Asia. Drought causes die-offs of trees and dries out leaf litter, increasing the risk of forest fires, which are often set by land developers, ranchers, plantation owners, and loggers.

Tropical primary forest cover and tree cover by country in 2020
Chapter 9:

Rainforest importance

While rainforests may seem like a distant concern, they are critically important for our well-being. Rainforests are often called the lungs of the planet for their role in absorbing carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, and producing oxygen, upon which all animals depend for survival. Rainforests also stabilize climate, house incredible amounts of plants and wildlife, and produce nourishing rainfall all around the planet.

Rainforests:

  • Help stabilize the world’s climate: Rainforests help stabilize the world’s climate by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Scientists have shown that excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from human activities is contributing to climate change. Therefore, living rainforests have an important role in mitigating climate change, but when rainforests are chopped down and burned, the carbon stored in their wood and leaves is released into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.
  • Provide a home to many plants and animals: Rainforests are home to a large number of the world’s plant and animals species, including many endangered species. As forests are cut down, many species are doomed to extinction.
  • Help maintain the water cycle: The role of rainforests in the water cycle is to add water to the atmosphere through the process of transpiration (in which plants release water from their leaves during photosynthesis). This moisture contributes to the formation of rain clouds, which release the water back onto the rainforest. In the Amazon, 50-80 percent of moisture remains in the ecosystem’s water cycle. When forests are cut down, less moisture goes into the atmosphere and rainfall declines, sometimes leading to drought. Rainforests also have a role in global weather patterns. For example researchers have shown that forests in South America affect rainfall in the United States, while forests in Southeast Asia influence rain patterns in southeastern Europe and China. Distant rainforests are therefore important to farmers everywhere.
  • Protect against flood, drought, and erosion: Rainforests have been compared to natural sponges, moderating flood and drought cycles by slowing run-off and contributing moisture to the local atmosphere. Rainforests are also important in reducing soil erosion by anchoring the ground with their roots. When trees are cut down there is no longer anything to protect the ground, and soils are quickly washed away with rain. On steep hillsides, loss of forest can trigger landslides.
  • Are a source for medicines and foods and support forest-dependent people: People have long used forests as a source of food, wood, medicine, and recreation. When forests are lost, they can no longer provide these resources. Instead people must find other places to get these goods and services. They also must find ways to pay for the things they once got for free from the forest.
Chapter 10:

Rainforest conservation

Rainforests are disappearing very quickly. The good news is there are a lot of people who want to save rainforests. The bad news is that saving rainforests will be a challenge as it means humanity will need to shift away from business-as-usual practices by developing new policies and economic measures to creative incentives for preserving forests as healthy and productive ecosystems.

Over the past decade there has been considerable progress on several conservation fronts. Policymakers and companies are increasingly valuing rainforests for the services they afford, setting aside large blocks of forests in protected areas and setting up new financial mechanisms that compensate communities, state and local governments, and countries for conserving forests. Meanwhile, forest-dependent people are gaining more management control over the forests they have long stewarded. Large international companies are finally establishing policies that exclude materials sourced via deforestation. People are abandoning rural areas, leading to forest recovery in some planes.

But the battle is far from over. Growing population and consumption means that rainforests will continue to face intense pressures. At the same time, climate change threatens to dramatically alter temperatures and precipitation patterns, potentially pushing some forests toward critical tipping points.

Thus the future of the world's rainforests in very much in our hands. The actions we take in the next 20 years will determine whether rainforests, as we currently know them, are around to sustain and nourish future generations of people and wildlife.

The Latest News on Rainforests

U.N. declares decade of ecosystem restoration to ‘make peace with nature’ (11 Jun 2021 19:13:30 +0000)
- The U.N. has declared the coming decade a time for ecosystem restoration, highlighting in a new report the importance of preventing, halting and reversing ecosystem degradation worldwide.
- It calls on the world to restore at least 1 billion hectares (2.5 billion acres) of degraded land in the next decade — an area larger than China — warning that degradation already affects the well-being of 3.2 billion people.
- The report also makes an economic case for restoration, noting that for every dollar that goes into restoration, up to $30 in economic benefits are created.
- A key message of the report is that nature is not something that is “nice to have” — it is essential to our survival, and we are a part of it.

Amazon rainforest destruction is accelerating, shows government data (11 Jun 2021 16:47:39 +0000)
- Destruction of Earth’s largest rainforest is accelerating ahead of the region’s peak fire and deforestation season, reveals data released today by Brazil’s national space research institute INPE.
- According to INPE’s satellite-based deforestation tracking system, DETER, forest clearing in the Brazilian part of the Amazon amounted to 1,391 square kilometers in May. That represents a 67% increase over May 2020 and puts deforestation nearly on pace with last year’s rate, when forest loss in the region reached 11,088 square kilometers, the highest level since 2008.
- The figure also represents the highest recorded in any May since at least 2007.
- Note: this is an updated version of a story published June 4, 2021. It has been revised using data released today.

What’s the cost of illegal mining in Brazil’s Amazon? A new tool calculates it (11 Jun 2021 15:50:29 +0000)
- The launch of a gold mining impacts calculator this week — a joint project of the Federal Public Ministry and the Conservation Strategy Fund — marks a big step forward in combating illegal mining in the Brazilian Amazon, experts and government agents say.
- The new tool was able to estimate damages of $431 million caused by illegal mining in 2020 on the Yanomami Indigenous Reserve, where local leaders have reported several attacks in the past month by miners, following an influx of mining activities since 2019.
- Since 2019, Brazil has exported $11 billion in gold, with Switzerland, Canada and the United Kingdom as the top importers; last year alone, these three countries imported $3.5 billion of the precious metal from Brazil.
- Improving traceability is another important step to cracking down on the environmentally devasting illegal gold market, says Sérgio Leitão, an expert in the fight against illegal mining in Brazil.

Slash-and-burn clearing nears Indigenous park as Brazil’s fire season ignites (10 Jun 2021 23:02:43 +0000)
- Xingu Indigenous Park shields one of the last remaining large tracts of old growth rainforest in Brazil’s “arc of deforestation,” and is inhabited by dozens of Indigenous communities.
- The park experienced a jump in deforestation in 2020, quadrupling the amount of primary forest it lost in 2019.
- Most of this deforestation was caused by wildfires, which likely spread from slash-and-burn activity on nearby agricultural fields.
- Satellite data and imagery show agricultural fields and fires expanding towards the park in 2021 despite a prohibition on dry-season burning and a drought the likes of which haven’t been seen in nearly a century.

‘Listening to communities must go beyond ticking compliance boxes’, says Peter Kallang, a Kenyah leader (09 Jun 2021 15:51:18 +0000)
- The Malaysian state of Sarawak was until recently home to some of the last nomadic peoples of Borneo, who roamed its wild and rich rainforests as they had done since time immemorial. Starting in the early 1980s, industrial logging companies moved deep into Sarawak’s hinterland, tearing down forests, forcing forest peoples from their traditional lands, and laying the groundwork for large-scale conversion of biodiverse ecosystems into monoculture plantations.
- Sarawak’s Indigenous peoples put up resistance against these state-backed incursions into their traditional territories. One of the most dramatic outcomes of these efforts came in 2016, when the Chief Minister of Sarawak cancelled the Baram mega-dam project.
- Peter Kallang, a member of the Kenyah people who runs the NGO SAVE Rivers, was one of the leaders of the Baram campaign, helping coordinate, organize, and mobilize Indigenous communities that would have been most impacted by the dam. Now Kallang, SAVE Rivers, and other groups are fighting to defend traditional Indigenous lands against logging by Samling, a Malaysian timber company.
- Kallang spoke about his background, Indigenous-led advocacy, the conservation sector’s shortcomings in recognizing Indigenous rights, and other topics during a June 2021 interview with Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler.

As U.K. eyes new environmental rules, some firms want to pump the brakes (09 Jun 2021 15:16:36 +0000)
- A long-anticipated U.K. environmental bill is currently in the House of Lords and is expected to pass before the global climate summit takes place in Scotland later this year.
- Environmental advocates have criticized the bill for failing to include human rights protections and allowing forms of deforestation deemed legal under local laws.
- In a consultation held by a U.K. government agency, some representatives of the meat and oilseed industries pushed back against the threat of fines for importing products or commodities linked to illegal deforestation.

Chinese banks pouring billions into deforestation-linked firms, report says (09 Jun 2021 12:26:31 +0000)
- New analysis from Global Witness has revealed that Chinese banks and investors provided more than $22.5 billion to deforestation-linked companies worldwide from January 2013 to April 2020.
- Global Witness found that five of the biggest Chinese commercial banks accounted for 45% of all funds provided by Chinese financiers during this period.
- With the Chinese law regulating commercial banks set to be revised later this year, the eco-watchdog is calling for policymakers to prohibit Chinese banks from financing businesses linked to environmental and social damage.

In less than a generation, legal mining in Colombia deforested over 120,000 hectares (08 Jun 2021 15:56:20 +0000)
- A study by researchers in Colombia found that forest clearing by legal mining operations has increased sharply in recent years.
- The study shows that just 1% of the 8,600 legal mining concessions in the country account for 60% of the deforestation associated with the sector.
- The authors say that if mining titles continue to be granted at current rates, Colombia could lose 400,000 hectares (990,000 acres) of forest from legal mining alone over the next two decades.

Study shows it took the Amazon as we know it over 6 million years to form (07 Jun 2021 10:01:24 +0000)
- An asteroid impact near Mexico 66 million years ago triggered an ecological catastrophe that claimed nearly half of all plant species and took Amazon forests more than 6 million years to recover from.
- Colombian researchers analyzed fossilized pollen and leaves and found plant diversity declined by 45% after the impact; when plant diversity finally recovered, open forests of ferns and conifers had been replaced by dense, closed-canopy forests dominated by flowering plants.
- The researchers suggested three interlinked explanations for the sudden transition: the extinction of large-bodied dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous reduced forest disturbance; dust from the impact acted as a fertilizer; conifers were more likely to go extinct.
- In the time periods studied, Earth’s climate was warmer and CO2 levels were higher, showing that climate alone is not enough to trigger a forest-to-savanna transition, with the pace of warming and deforestation the crucial puzzle pieces that determine whether today’s forests can survive.

Brazil’s environment minister faces second probe linked to illegal timber (04 Jun 2021 21:23:15 +0000)
- Brazil’s highest court has authorized an investigation into alleged obstruction of justice by Environment Minister Ricardo Salles, who has admitted to siding with suspected illegal loggers targeted in a police operation.
- Following the country’s biggest ever bust of illegal timber in March, Salles traveled to the site in the Amazon and declared on social media accounts that he had personally checked the origin of a sample of the wood and found it was not of illegal origin, despite the police’s evidence to the contrary.
- The new investigation into Salles comes two weeks after the Federal Police began a probe into allegations that the minister was involved in exports of illegal timber to the U.S. and Europe.
- Salles’s term as environment minister has been marked by skyrocketing deforestation rates, a record-high number of rural land conflicts, the gutting of environmental regulators, and an increase in invasions and attacks on Indigenous lands.

May deforestation in the Amazon hits 14-year high, with 4 days of data still to process (04 Jun 2021 19:38:49 +0000)
- Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon rose sharply in May, reports the country’s national space research institute INPE.
- According to INPE’s satellite-based deforestation tracking system, DETER, forest destruction in the Brazilian portion of the Amazon through the first 27 days of the month amounted to 1,180 square kilometers, an area 20 times the size of Manhattan.
- Deforestation in May was the highest for any May dating back to at least 2007. The next highest May on record is May 2008, when 1,096 square kilometers was cut down.
- Scientists are bracing for a bad fire season in the southern and eastern Amazon due to below average rainfall during the most recent rainy season. A resurgence of fire and deforestation in the Amazon is heightening concerns about the fate of Earth’s largest rainforest, which some researchers say could be approaching a point where vast areas transition toward drier habitat.

‘We guard the forest’: Carbon markets without community recognition not viable (04 Jun 2021 16:44:48 +0000)
- Researchers looked at 31 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America that hold almost 70% of the world’s tropical forests and 62% of the total feasible natural climate solution potential, and found that most of the tropical forested countries looking to benefit from carbon markets still need to define community carbon rights.
- There is significant public and private interest to use carbon markets to fight climate change and work toward the goals of the Paris Agreement, with the global LEAF coalition pushing to mobilize at least $1 billion to tackle deforestation and forest degradation.
- While carbon markets appear to be a win-win for protecting the forests and promoting developing economies, if implemented without meaningfully including communities, they could worsen risks faces by these communities including increasing land grabs and efforts to capture associated rents, and increasing threats of human rights violations, criminalization and conflicts.
- Studies increasingly show that Indigenous peoples and local communities are the best stewards of tropical forests, and that granting them land rights is a highly cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions.

US, UK join Norway and Germany in effort to protect Peru’s rainforests (04 Jun 2021 00:25:04 +0000)
- Britain and the United States have joined Norway and Germany in supporting efforts by the Peruvian government to reduce deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon.
- The U.S. and U.K. have signed on to the existing reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD+) program established in 2014 by Norway and Germany with the government of Peru.
- Norway and Germany have agreed to extend their participation in the program through 2025, pledging 1.8 billion Norwegian Krone ($215 million) and 210 million euros ($255 million), respectively, based on Peru’s progress in curbing deforestation.
- Deforestation in Peru has been trending upward since the mid-2010s, according to data from the World Resource Institute’s Global Forest Watch. Primary forest loss reached 190,000 hectares in 2020, the highest level since at least 2002.

West Papua revokes quarter of a million hectares of land from palm oil (03 Jun 2021 09:26:35 +0000)
- The local government in Indonesia’s West Papua province has revoked permits for 12 oil palm concessions that cover an area twice the size of Los Angeles.
- The move comes after a recent audit of palm oil concession holders found widespread administrative and legal violations, such as lack of necessary licenses and land abandonment.
- Activists have called on the government to follow up on the revocation by granting Indigenous peoples access to the rescinded concessions so that they can be managed in a sustainable manner, instead of granting new licenses to other investors.
- The West Papua government has vowed to do so, saying it has made various commitments to protect the province’s remaining rainforests, which are increasingly threatened by the expansion of industrial agriculture, mining and logging.

Deforestation intensifies in northern DRC protected areas (02 Jun 2021 21:10:24 +0000)
- Satellite data from the University of Maryland are showing recent spikes in deforestation activity in the northern portion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
- Forest loss appears to be affecting protected areas, including Okapi Wildlife Reserve and Bili-Uéré.
- Major drivers of deforestation in the DRC include logging, charcoal production, agriculture and informal mining, which sources say are aided by government inaction.