Deforestation: facts, figures, and pictures

By Rhett A. Butler  Last updated July 23, 2020



Deforestation facts

Here are some basic facts about deforestation. These facts are explored in greater depth below.

  • Forests are cut down to clear land for agriculture, livestock grazing, and settlement; for timber; to produce charcoal; and to establish tree plantations.
  • Deforestation occurs across all forest types, but is concentrated in the tropics and boreal regions. Temperate regions are experiencing a net increase in forest cover due to natural regeneration.
  • While deforestation produces food, fiber, and fuel, it can also pose risks to climate, biodiversity, and food security by degrading the ecosystem services normally afforded by healthy and productive forests.
  • There are different ways to calculate deforestation. Using the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimate, the countries with the highest area of deforestation during the 2010s were Brazil (18.9 million ha of net forest conversion), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (11M ha), Indonesia (8M ha), Angola (5.6M ha), and Canada (4.5M ha).
  • Scientists estimate that 80% of the planet's terrestrial species live in forests. Deforestation is therefore one of the biggest extinction risks to many species.
Illegal deforestation for palm oil. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

Definition of deforestation

What is deforestation? Deforestation refers to the cutting, clearing, and removal of natural forest.

Deforestation includes the conversion of natural forests into tree plantations, like the clearance of tropical rainforests in Southeast Asia for oil palm and timber plantations.

Governments often exclude areas burned by fires from official deforestation statistics. However forests that are chopped down and then burned are usually counted as "deforestation."

Deforestation is defined in different ways by different institutions. For example, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines deforestation as "the conversion of forest to another land use or the long-term reduction of the tree canopy cover below the minimum 10 percent threshold." Depletion of forest to tree crown cover greater than 10 percent (say from 90 percent to 15 percent) is considered "forest degradation". Logging most often falls under the category of forest degradation and thus is not included in FAO deforestation statistics. For this reason, forest degradation rates are considerably higher than deforestation rates.

Regional deforestation trends for the tropics

Chaco forest recently destroyed for soybeans. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

Causes of deforestation

What causes deforestation?

The causes of deforestation — sometimes called drivers of deforestation — vary from region to region. In tropical Latin America and Southeast Asia, most deforestation is directly caused by conversion of natural forests for industrial activities, notably cattle ranching in the Amazon and large-scale tree plantations in Southeast Asia. These industrial activities typically produce commodities for export and urban markets.

In other regions, especially parts of tropical Africa, deforestation is caused primarily by subsistence or small-scale agriculture. Subsistence agriculture is primarily to produce food for household consumption or local markets.


Pie chart showing tree cover loss by region, according to Curtis et al 2018

Chart showing tree cover loss by region, according to Curtis et al 2018

Chart showing tree cover loss by region, according to WRI 2019

 

Outside the tropics, drivers of deforestation are also varied. In countries like the United States, Canada, and Russia industrial timber operations convert natural temperate and boreal forests into industrial tree plantations. Urban expansion and agriculture can also be important causes of deforestation.

Mining also causes deforestation, but typically on a much smaller scale than agriculture. Mining however can result in other adverse environmental impacts like water and air pollution.

Types of deforestation

The "causes of deforestation" section above focuses on direct drivers of deforestation, but indirect drivers are also important to consider. For example, logging is a major indirect driver of deforestation in the tropics. Logging in tropical rainforests is typically selective, meaning only a few trees are harvested per hectare. But successive logging cycles degrade the perceived economic value of the forest, increasing pressure to convert the forest for intensive use, like agricultural or an industrial plantation (e.g. oil palm, wood pulp, or timber are the most common tropical tree plantations). Logging also usually involves road construction, which facilitates access to remote areas, greatly boosting the likelihood that an area of forest will eventually be cleared or burned.

Drivers of deforestation can be even farther removed however. For example, corruption, governance, and land rights can all be important factors in whether a forest gets destroyed. Corruption can enable companies to circumvent environmental regulations, while poor governance can allow illegal actors to clear forests with impunity since there isn't any law enforcement. Insecure land rights can spur a free-for-all where forests get cleared because no one has clear stake to maintain them for the public good. Research has shown that forests are more likely to be maintained in indigenous communities that have secure land titles.

 



Regional deforestation trends

Deforestation in the Amazon has been trending higher over the past decade due to growing demand for beef, soy, and land; government development policies that encourage expansion into forests; and the increasing vulnerability of the rainforest ecosystem to drought and fire. Brazil, which accounts for more than 60% of forest cover in the Amazon, is the bellwether in the region.

The deforestation trend in the world's second largest rainforest, the Congo, is also up due to rising conversion for agriculture and increased logging.

After peaking in the mid-2010s, deforestation has been trending downward in Southeast Asia. Nonetheless, the region still loses vast amounts of forest to industrial agriculture for the production of palm oil, timber, and pulp and paper.

In North America and Russia, industrial timber harvesting is a large driver of deforestation in natural forests. Every few years vast areas of forest, especially in boreal regions, burn due to fires. Many of these result from lightning strikes, while some result from human activities. While there is a natural fire cycle in northern forests, the effects of climate change — including higher temperatures, more severe droughts, and beetle infestations resulting from warmer winters — are making these ecosystems more vulnerable to unusually destructive fires.


Chart showing the state of primary forests in the tropics, according to Hansen/WRI 2020

Chart showing tree cover loss in the Amazon, according to Hansen/WRI 2020

Chart showing tree cover loss in the Atlantic Forest, according to Hansen/WRI 2020

Chart showing tree cover loss in Australiasia (Australia, New Guinea, and neighboring islands), according to Hansen/WRI 2020

Chart showing tree cover loss in the Choco, according to Hansen/WRI 2020

Chart showing tree cover loss in the Congo, according to Hansen/WRI 2020

Chart showing tree cover loss in the Indo-Burma region, according to Hansen/WRI 2020

Chart showing tree cover loss in Mesoamerica, according to Hansen/WRI 2020

Chart showing tree cover loss in Sundaland (Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, Java, and Borneo), according to Hansen/WRI 2020

Chart showing tree cover loss in Wallacea (Sulawesi and Halmahera), according to Hansen/WRI 2020

Chart showing tree cover loss in West Africa, according to Hansen/WRI 2020

Effects of deforestation

Forests provide many critical ecosystem services and house wildlife and people. Deforestation therefore undermines these services and deprives forest-dependent peoples of livelihoods and cultural connections to nature.

Forests:

  • help stabilize the world’s climate by sequestering carbon and affecting the reflectivity of Earth's surface;
  • provide a home to the majority of the planet's plant and animal species;
  • maintain the water cycle, including generating rainfall at local, regional, and trans-continental scales;
  • help buffer again storm damage, erosion, and drought / flood cycles;
  • are a source for food, fiber, fuel, and medicine;
  • support forest-dependent people, including indigenous tribes living in voluntary isolation from the rest of humanity; and
  • provide recreational, spiritual, and cultural value.

Forest loss therefore:

  • accelerates global warming by releasing substantial amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere;
  • increases biodiversity loss, including causing the extinction of plants and animals;
  • disrupts rainfall patterns, including increasing the incidence of drought in some areas;
  • exacerbates the risk of floods and storm damage;
  • presents a food security risk to forest-dependent populations;
  • undermines local livelihoods, potentially pushing forest people off their traditional lands; and
  • can break cultural and spiritual links between people and forests, including loss of traditional knowledge about the value of forests.

Read more Consequences of deforestation.

Deforestation and climate change

Scientists expect climate change to have wide-ranging effects for the world's forests. Changes in weather patterns, rainfall distribution, and temperature will result in the transformation of some tropical rainforests into drier forests and the shift of other types of forests into tropical forest. Forests may recede in some areas (e.g. the southern Amazon, Borneo, and the Congo Basin) and expand in others (e.g. boreal and polar regions, Africa's Sahel).

Sea level rise will inundate and kill coastal lowland forests, including mangroves. Montane forests may climb to higher elevations as temperatures rise.

The response of forests to climate change challenged by deforestation, forest degradation, and human infrastructure. Whereas in the past forest ecological communities could respond to climate change by moving, today migration corridors across much of the world are effectively blocked. Additionally the pace of current change is much greater than with past periods of warming, like the Pleistocene and Holocene epochs

Read more Climate Change and the Amazon Rainforest.

Bulldozer at a conventional logging site in Borneo. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

Deforestation solutions

Drivers of deforestation are complex and vary from region to region depending on social, economic, political, and geographic issues. This means that solutions to deforestation are also variable — in short, there's no simple, one-stop solution to deforestation that applies worldwide. However there are some common themes that underpin efforts to combat deforestation. These include:

  • Improve governance to curb illegal conversion and degradation of forests and reduce mismanagement of resources
  • Use full-cost accounting to incorporate the real costs of externalities and perverse subsidies that drive environmental degradation, while aligning economic incentives with forest-friendly practices and policies.
  • Strengthen transparency around land use and commodity sources to improve accountability.
  • Engage stakeholders in and around forest areas to determine how conservation efforts can support local livelihoods and help make land use more sustainable.
  • Recognize the land rights of forest-dependent peoples to ensure the forests they traditionally use aren't taken away from them.
  • Educate the public on the importance of forest ecosystems, including the services they afford.
  • Take personal responsibility in how you use resources. The decisions we as consumers make have a direct impact on the fate of forests. As such, you have a powerful voice in asking companies what actions they are taking to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains.
  • Support environmental defenders who are putting their lives and well-being on the line to protect forests.
  • Communicate your concerns about forests to policymakers, companies, and your friends and family.
  • Vote for representatives who support thoughtful, forest-friendly policies.

Read more How to Save the Rainforest.

Deforestation statistics

The global deforestation rates depends on how one defines deforestation. The most frequently updated data on global tree cover is based on analysis of satellite data by the University of Maryland and Global Forest Watch (UMD/GFW). This data is released annually, typically several months after the end of the year. However, the UMD/GFW data reflects global tree cover loss, which may or may not represent actual deforestation because it includes any activity that affects tree cover, including forest loss due to fire, cyclical harvesting of trees within plantations, and large-scale forest damage from storms. UMD/GFW publishes another proxy for deforestation -- tropical primary forest loss -- but this doesn't apply to any secondary forest loss or forest loss outside the tropics.

Global tree cover loss rose from an average of 17.1 million hectares a year in the 2000s to 23.1 million in the 2010s. This increase reflects both deforestation in natural forests and activity within an expanding area of plantations, the bulk of which are in Asia, Europe, and North America.

But while global tree cover loss is increasing as is primary forest loss in the tropics, FAO says that worldwide deforestation has been on a downward trend since the 1990s.

Global deforestation trends


Chart showing annual tree cover loss by region.

Chart showing annual tree cover loss in the tropics and outside the tropics.

Chart showing total tree cover loss, 2001-2019.

Average annual global deforestation according to FAO 2020 (million ha)

Average annual global deforestation, forest gain, and net forest loss according to FAO 2020 (million ha)

Deforestation rankings for the 2010s

Deforestation numbers depend on the methodology. Below are three different sets of data: net forest conversion from the FAO, tree cover loss from Hansen / WRI 2020, and tropical primary forest loss from Hansen / WRI 2020.

Average hectares lost/yearNet forest conversion (FAO)
Source: FAO 2020
Tree cover loss
Source: Hansen / WRI 2020
Tropical primary forest loss
Source: Hansen / WRI 2020
Russia 139,406 4,164,738
Brazil 1,885,640 2,993,616 1,314,788
Canada 454,175 2,395,826
United State 145,700 2,033,577
Indonesia 800,790 1,598,176 585,230
D.R. Congo 1,101,376 1,050,115 366,635
Tanzania 420,501 158,463
Bolivia 226,472 374,628 183,894
Paraguay 357,281 360,644 53,271
Angola 555,062 199,453 9,109
Mozambique 224,801 204,690
Sweden 152,400 262,467
Myanmar 301,896 269,628 38,307
Cambodia 297,030 166,746 90,319
Peru 183,798 210,153 137,352
Colombia 171,198 243,306 96,090
Argentina 189,000 297,398 21,088
Zambia 188,197 122,413
Mexico 128,510 228,326 39,587
Venezuela 164,303 113,585 33,249

 

Deforestation pictures

Below are photos of deforestation taken from around the world. There are tens of thousands of more photos of deforestation at travel.mongabay.com. There's a search function at images.mongabay.com


Chevron's Duri oil field in Riau

Deforestation for oil palm

Newly planted oil palm plantation

Smoke rising from a forest fire in Riau

Soy and Chaco forest

Deforestation in Riau

Smallholder deforestation

Smallholder deforestation in Borneo

Illegal clearing and burning inside Tesso Nilo

Peatlands destruction in Riau

Cleared peatland with rainforest in the background

Smallholder deforestation in Borneo

Illegal sand and gold mining

Smallholder deforestation in Borneo

Deforestation for oil palm

Drained, cleared, and burned peatland and forest

Batu Hijau mine

Smallholder deforestation in Borneo

Industrial logging in Malaysian Borneo

Illegal sand and gold mining

Oil palm estate and rainforest in Malaysian Borneo

Deforestation for oil palm

Deforestation for oil palm

Chaco forest recently destroyed for soybeans

Illegal deforestation for palm oil

Burning within Tesso Nilo National Park

Smallholder deforestation in Borneo

Haze rising from an oil palm plantation and forest in Riau

Stacks of rainforest timber in Indonesia

Logging truck in Borneo

Deforestation in Riau

Deforestation in Sumatra

Industrial deforestation in Borneo

Brush fire in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Burned peat forest

New oil palm plantation established on peatland outside Palangkaraya

deforestation for oil palm

Smallholder deforestation in Borneo

Bulldozer at a conventional logging site in Borneo

Canal dug through degraded peat forest

Acacia plantation

Overhead view of the Rio Huaypetue gold mine the Peruvian Amazon

Rainforest timber transported in lagoon near Loango National Park in Gabon

deforestation for oil palm

Ramin trees in a deforested landscape

Sunset over a deforested area

Drained, cleared, and burned peatland and forest

Peat forest cleared for palm oil

Big picture context on deforestation

How much rainforest is being destroyed? by Rhett A. Butler on 10 June 2020

  • In December 2019, Mongabay published a review of decade in tropical forests. The analysis wasn’t fully complete because forest loss data for 2019 hadn’t yet been released.
  • Last week, the University of Maryland (UMD) and World Resources Institute (WRI) published the 2019 data, which showed that 3.75 million hectares of primary forest were cleared during the year.
  • That brings the total tropical primary forest loss since 2002 to 60 million hectares, an area larger than the combined land mass of the states of California and Missouri.
  • However the 2019 numbers may not capture the full extent of loss due to the extent of deforestation that occurred in the Amazon during the later part of the year.
Tropical forests’ lost decade: the 2010s by Rhett A. Butler on 17 December 2019
  • The 2010s opened as a moment of optimism for tropical forests. The world looked like it was on track to significantly reduce tropical deforestation by 2020.
  • By the end of the 2019 however, it was clear that progress on protecting tropical forests stalled in the 2010s. The decade closed with rising deforestation and increased incidence of fire in tropical forests.
  • According to the U.N., in 2015 global forest cover fell below four billion hectares of forest for the first time in human history.
Earth has more trees now than 35 years ago by Rhett A. Butler on 15 August 2018
  • Tree cover increased globally over the past 35 years, finds a paper published in the journal Nature.
  • The study, led by Xiao-Peng Song and Matthew Hansen of the University of Maryland, is based on analysis of satellite data from 1982 to 2016.
  • The research found that tree cover loss on the tropics was outweighed by tree cover gain in subtropical, temperate, boreal, and polar regions.
  • However all the tree cover data comes with an important caveat: tree cover is not necessarily forest cover.
10 reasons to be optimistic for forests by Rhett A. Butler on 5 June 2016
  • It’s easy to be pessimistic about the state of the world’s forests.
  • Yet all hope is not lost. There are remain good reasons for optimism when it comes to saving the world’s forests.
  • On the occasion of World Environment Day 2016 (June 5), the United Nations’ “day” for raising awareness and encouraging action to protect the planet, here are 10 forest-friendly trends to watch.
How does the global commodity collapse impact forest conservation? by Rhett A. Butler on 21 December 2015
  • Since early 2014, prices for most commodities produced in the tropics have plunged.
  • The market rout is wreaking havoc on the state budgets of developing countries, curbing investment, and pushing producers to scale back on output and postpone plans for expansion.
  • In isolation, these developments would seem to be good news for tropical forests. But the reality is more complex.
Rainforests could provide half global climate solution by 2050 by Rhett A. Butler on 25 November 2015
  • Protecting, restoring, and better managing tropical forests could provide as much as half the net carbon emissions required to meet a 2-degree Celsius climate target.
  • The authors cite three opportunities where tropical forests could make substantial contributions: reducing deforestation and degradation, allowing forests degraded by logging and shifting agriculture to recover, and reforesting areas that have been cleared.
  • All told, those efforts could sequester and avoid emissions of up to five billion tons per year, or just under half the current level of emissions from fossil fuels, for about 50 years. About 20 percent of that would come via reducing emissions by cutting the amount of trees that are felled and burned, while 80 percent would come from sequestration.
How many trees are cut down every year? by Rhett A. Butler on 2 September 2015
  • A new study published in Nature estimates the planet has 3.04 trillion trees.
  • The research says 15.3 billion trees are chopped down every year.
  • It also estimates that 46% of the world’s trees have been cleared over the past 12,000 years.
Industrial logging leaves a poor legacy in Borneo’s rainforests by Rhett A. Butler on 17 July 2012
  • For most people “Borneo” conjures up an image of a wild and distant land of rainforests, exotic beasts, and nomadic tribes. But that place increasingly exists only in one’s imagination, for the forests of world’s third largest island have been rapidly and relentlessly logged, burned, and bulldozed in recent decades, leaving only a sliver of its once magnificent forests intact.
Is Indonesia losing its most valuable assets? Commentary by Rhett A. Butler on 16 May 2011
  • Deep in the rainforests of Malaysian Borneo in the late 1980s, researchers made an incredible discovery: the bark of a species of peat swamp tree yielded an extract with potent anti-HIV activity.
  • An anti-HIV drug made from the compound is now nearing clinical trials. It could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year and help improve the lives of millions of people.
  • This story is significant for Indonesia because its forests house a similar species. In fact, Indonesia’s forests probably contain many other potentially valuable species, although our understanding of these is poor.
  • Given Indonesia’s biological richness — Indonesia has the highest number of plant and animal species of any country on the planet — shouldn’t policymakers and businesses be giving priority to protecting and understanding rainforests, peatlands, mountains, coral reefs, and mangrove ecosystems, rather than destroying them for commodities?
Does chopping down rainforests for pulp and paper help alleviate poverty in Indonesia? by Rhett A. Butler on 13 January 2011
  • Over the past several years, Asia Pulp & Paper has engaged in a marketing campaign to represent its operations in Sumatra as socially and environmentally sustainable. APP and its agents maintain that industrial pulp and paper production — as practiced in Sumatra — does not result in deforestation, is carbon neutral, helps protect wildlife, and alleviates poverty. While a series of analyses and reports have shown most of these assertions to be false, the final claim has largely not been contested. But does conversion of lowland rainforests for pulp and paper really alleviate poverty in Indonesia?.
Greening the world with palm oil? by Rhett A. Butler on 26 January 2011
  • The commercial shows a typical office setting. A worker sits drearily at a desk, shredding papers and watching minutes tick by on the clock. When his break comes, he takes out a Nestle KitKat bar. As he tears into the package, the viewer, but not the office worker, notices something is amiss—what should be chocolate has been replaced by the dark hairy finger of an orangutan. With the jarring crunch of teeth breaking through bone, the worker bites into the “bar.” Drops of blood fall on the keyboard and run down his face. His officemates stare, horrified. The advertisement cuts to a solitary tree standing amid a deforested landscape. A chainsaw whines. The message: Palm oil—an ingredient in many Nestle products—is killing orangutans by destroying their habitat, the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra.
Corporations, conservation, and the green movement by Rhett A. Butler on 21 October 2010
  • The rise of industrial deforestation and its implications for conservation.
  • The image of rainforests being torn down by giant bulldozers, felled by chainsaw-wielding loggers, and torched by large-scale developers has never been more poignant. Corporations have today replaced small-scale farmers as the prime drivers of deforestation, a shift that has critical implications for conservation.
  • Until recently deforestation has been driven mostly by poverty—poor people in developing countries clearing forests or depleting other natural resources as they struggle to feed their families. Government policies in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s had a multiplier effect, subsidizing agricultural expansion through low-interest loans, infrastructure projects, and ambitious colonization schemes, especially in the Amazon and Indonesia. But over the past two decades, this has changed in many countries due to rural depopulation, a decline in state-sponsored development projects, the rise of globalized financial markets, and a worldwide commodity boom.
  • Deforestation, overfishing, and other forms of environmental degradation are now primarily the result of corporations feeding demand from international consumers. While industrial actors exploit resources more efficiently and cause widespread environmental damage, they also are more sensitive to pressure from consumers and environmental groups. Thus in recent years, it has become easier—and more ethical—for green groups to go after corporations than after poor farmers.
How Greenpeace changes big business by Rhett A. Butler on 22 July 2010
  • Tropical deforestation claimed roughly 13 million hectares of forest per year during the first half of this decade, about the same rate of loss as the 1990s.
  • But while the overall numbers have remained relatively constant, they mask a transition of great significance: a shift from poverty-driven to industry-driven deforestation and geographic consolidation of where deforestation occurs.
  • These changes have important implications for efforts to protect the world’s remaining tropical forests in that environmental groups now have identifiable targets that may be more responsive to pressure on environmental concerns than tens of millions of impoverished rural farmers. In other words, activists have more leverage than ever to impact corporate behavior as it relates to deforestation.
Changing drivers of deforestation provide new opportunities for conservation by Rhett A. Butler on 9 December 2009
  • Tropical deforestation claimed roughly 13 million hectares of forest per year during the first half of this decade, about the same rate of loss as the 1990s.
  • But while the overall numbers have remained relatively constant, they mask a transition of great significance: a shift from poverty-driven to industry-driven deforestation and geographic consolidation of where deforestation occurs.
  • These changes have important implications for efforts to protect the world’s remaining tropical forests in that environmental lobby groups now have identifiable targets that may be more responsive to pressure on environmental concerns than tens of millions of impoverished rural farmers.
  • In other words, activists have more leverage than ever to impact corporate behavior as it relates to deforestation.
Concerns over deforestation may drive new approach to cattle ranching in the Amazon by Rhett A. Butler on 8 September 2009
  • While you’re browsing the mall for running shoes, the Amazon rainforest is probably the farthest thing from your mind. Perhaps it shouldn’t be.
  • The globalization of commodity supply chains has created links between consumer products and distant ecosystems like the Amazon. Shoes sold in downtown Manhattan may have been assembled in Vietnam using leather supplied from a Brazilian processor that subcontracted to a rancher in the Amazon. But while demand for these products is currently driving environmental degradation, this connection may also hold the key to slowing the destruction of Earth’s largest rainforest.
Are we on the brink of saving rainforests? by Rhett A. Butler on 22 July 2009
  • Until now saving rainforests seemed like an impossible mission. But the world is now warming to the idea that a proposed solution to help address climate change could offer a new way to unlock the value of forest without cutting it down.
How to save the Amazon rainforest by Rhett A. Butler on 4 January 2009
  • Environmentalists have long voiced concern over the vanishing Amazon rainforest, but they haven’t been particularly effective at slowing forest loss. In fact, despite the hundreds of millions of dollars in donor funds that have flowed into the region since 2000 and the establishment of more than 100 million hectares of protected areas since 2002, average annual deforestation rates have increased since the 1990s, peaking at 73,785 square kilometers (28,488 square miles) of forest loss between 2002 and 2004. With land prices fast appreciating, cattle ranching and industrial soy farms expanding, and billions of dollars’ worth of new infrastructure projects in the works, development pressure on the Amazon is expected to accelerate.

Recent deforestation articles

Whistleblower: Enviva claim of ‘being good for the planet… all nonsense’
- Enviva is the largest maker of wood pellets burned for energy in the world. The company has, from its inception, touted its green credentials.
- It says it doesn’t use big, whole trees, but only uses wood waste, “tops, limbs, thinnings, and/or low-value smaller trees” in the production of woody biomass burned in former coal power plants in the U.K., EU and Asia. It says it only sources wood from areas where trees will be regrown, and that it doesn’t contribute to deforestation.
- However, in first-ever interviews with a whistleblower who worked within Enviva plant management, Mongabay contributor Justin Catanoso has been told that all of these Enviva claims are false. In addition, a major recent scientific study finds that Enviva is contributing to deforestation in the U.S. Southeast.
- Statements by the whistleblower have been confirmed by Mongabay’s own observations at a November 2022 forest clear-cut in North Carolina, and by NGO photo documentation. These findings are especially important now, as the EU considers the future of forest biomass burning as a “sustainable” form of renewable energy.

Indigenous communities in Peru ‘living in fear’ due to deforestation, drug trafficking
- Between 2021 and 2021 the territory of the Indigenous Kakataibo community of Puerto Nuevo lost 15% of its tree cover.
- Satellite data suggest forest loss in the community territory may have accelerated in 2022.
- Residents say outsiders are invading the territory and clearing forest to grow coca crops for the production of cocaine.
- The presence of armed groups is deterring government intervention.

Despite 11% drop in 2022, Amazon deforestation rate has soared under Bolsonaro
- An area equivalent to the size of Qatar was cleared in the Brazilian Amazon between Aug. 1, 2021, and July 31, 2022, according to data from the country’s National Space Research Institute (INPE).
- Although the figure represents an 11.27% decrease in the Amazon annual deforestation rate compared with the prior year, the government of President Bolsonaro still accounts for the most Amazon destruction in the last 34 years, environmentalists say.
- Bolsonaro’s four-year term ends with a 59.5% boom in Amazon deforestation rates, the highest in a presidential term since 1988, when measurements by satellite imagery began.
- INPE’s report, dated Nov. 3 but only released 27 days later, also triggered criticism among environmentalists, who accused the Bolsonaro’s administration of omitting the annual deforestation data until the end of the UN conference on climate change, COP27, held Nov. 6-20 in Egypt.

EU’s winter energy crisis intensifies pressure on forests (commentary)
- An energy crisis sparked by the war in Ukraine is intensifying pressure on Europe’s already besieged forests.
- Faced with having to choose whether to heat or eat, demand for firewood has surged as people return to this pre-industrial means of survival to get them through the coming winter. Big companies who burn wood for energy have also been lobbying policymakers to support their industry in the face of fossil fuel shortages.
- “Instead of pumping billions of euros of taxpayers’ money every year into burning biomass…financial support should be redirected towards policies which work: for people, for forests and our climate,” a new op-ed argues.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

In first for Indonesia, government recognizes Indigenous Papuans’ ancestral forests
- The Indonesian government has for the first time relinquished state forest into the custody of Indigenous communities in the eastern region of Papua, covering a combined area the size of New York City.
- Experts say this recognition of customary forests in Papua is significant as the region is threatened by increasing expansion of plantations, logging and mining operations, with Indigenous groups there having little to no legal protection against companies that covet their forests.
- With this official recognition, the government has essentially handed over its control over these forests to the Indigenous communities, and therefore no licenses for any kind of commercial activity can be issued for those areas.
- Activists have welcomed the move, but say it represents just a sliver of the millions of hectares of ancestral forest that are still waiting to be officially acknowledged in the Papua region.

To be effective, zero-deforestation pledges need a critical mass, study shows
- The importance of rapidly halting tropical deforestation to achieve net-zero emissions was a key message at this year’s climate summit, but corporate efforts to this end have stalled for decades.
- Cattle, soy and palm oil are the main commodities driving deforestation and destruction of other important ecosystems. Zero-deforestation commitments from the companies that trade in those commodities are seen as an important way to reduce deforestation globally.
- A new study compares the effectiveness of corporate commitments to reduce soy-related deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon and Cerrado, showing that zero-deforestation commitments can reduce deforestation locally, but only if there is widespread adoption and implementation among both small and big soy traders.
- Overall, the study points to the limitations of relying just on supply chain agreements to reduce regional deforestation and protect biodiverse ecosystems, and highlights the need for strong public-private partnerships.

Report calls on palm oil firms to make up for nearly 1m hectares of forest loss
- Palm oil companies across Southeast Asia are liable for the recovery of a Puerto Rico-sized area of forest because of their history of environmental harm, a new report shows.
- The Earthqualizer Foundation derived the figure of 877,314 hectares (2.17 million acres) based on the deforestation that the companies continued to carry out after they became aware that an increasing number of buyers had adopted sustainability policies.
- The report also calls on buyers who bought from these suppliers to shoulder some of the liability, which it said could count toward the forest restoration goals pledged by many of the buyers, including Nestlé, Kellogg’s and Unilever.
- The Earthqualizer report highlights some palm oil companies that are already undertaking recovery initiatives, but notes that these are few and far between, and any progress will need to be assessed over the long term.

What can Half or Whole Earth conservation strategies do for orangutans?
- In a recent study, a team of researchers attempted to predict how the application of two global conservation ideas, Half-Earth and Whole Earth, would impact orangutan conservation on the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia.
- Numbers of all three species of orangutans continue to drop due to habitat loss and killing by humans, despite an estimated $1 billion spent on conservation efforts in the past two decades.
- The researchers surveyed orangutan experts about their thoughts on the application of the two ideas on Borneo; the resulting analysis predicts continued declines for Bornean orangutans under both Half-Earth and Whole Earth paradigms, though they report that the species would fare better under Half-Earth.
- Proponents of the Whole Earth paradigm argue that the authors of the study misinterpreted some of the idea’s central tenets, however.

Indigenous cooperative restores forests to form ecological corridor in Bahia
- An Indigenous Pataxó cooperative reforested 210 hectares (519 acres) of Atlantic Forest in the Monte Pascoal-Pau Brasil Ecological Corridor with species that covered the Bahian soil before the Portuguese colonization.
- The project, coordinated by the Natureza Bela Environmental Group and financed by BNDES (the Brazilian National Development Bank), included 50 hectares (123 acres) of agroforestry system planting in the Boca da Mata village, strengthening the Indigenous community.
- The Pataxó live in a constant struggle to reclaim their land: More than 50,000 hectares (123,553 acres) have already been demarcated in the Barra Velha do Monte Pascoal Indigenous Territory, but the Pataxó people are in possession of only 9,000 hectares (22,240 acres) without being able to practice their traditional activities.

In Brazilian Amazon, mining harm comes from beyond just the mines, study shows
- A new land-use-change model suggests that the indirect impacts of mining operations in the Brazilian Amazon have been grossly underestimated.
- Impacts include not only deforestation but also loss of biodiversity, contamination of water sources, and health hazards for the Indigenous peoples living in the area.
- The calculation comes after years of government attempts to change existing regulations on protected areas and open them up to exploration.
- New roads opened for mining could cause 40 times more deforestation than the mines themselves, wiping out an area almost the size of Puerto Rico in the RENCA protected area in the northern Amazon.

U.N. report calls for the ban of mercury trade and its use in gold mining
- Small-scale gold mining is the key driver of global mercury demand, according to a U.N. report on the highly toxic metal, with South America accounting for 39% of this demand.
- Hair samples taken from Indigenous communities in the Bolivian and Brazilian Amazonian regions showed mercury levels in excess of the safe limit prescribed by the World Health Organization.
- In Brazil specifically, mercury use has risen with the boom in illegal mining that has been largely overlooked — and in some cases even encouraged — by the government of President Jair Bolsonaro.

Despite pledges, obstacles stifle community climate and conservation funding
- As science has increasingly shown the importance of conservation led by Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs), donors have begun to steer funding toward supporting the work these groups do.
- In 2021, during last year’s COP26 U.N. climate conference, private and government donors committed $1.7 billion to secure the land rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities.
- But a recent assessment of the first year of the pledge shows that little of the funding goes directly to them, often going first through international NGOs, consultancies, development banks and other intermediaries.
- Most aid intended to support IPLC-led conservation work follows this path. Now, however, donors and IPLC leaders are looking for ways to ease the flow of funding and channel more of it to work that addresses climate change and the global loss of biodiversity.

2022 Amazon fires tightly tied to recent deforestation, new data show
- Nearly 1,000 major fires burned in the Amazon during its 2022 fire season, according to the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP).
- The Brazilian Amazon accounted for the vast majority of the fires, and most burned in recently deforested areas.
- MAAP uses unique satellite data detecting aerosol emissions alongside regular heat alerts, which helps filter out small fires.
- Fires clearing logging debris are linked to soy-driven deforestation in some Brazilian Amazon areas, where many soy-trading companies have not signed zero-deforestation commitments.

Report offers a road map to restore the rule of law in the Brazilian Amazon
- Brazilian president-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will have to supercharge many of the same policies that he employed in his first two terms to bring Amazon destruction rates down from their record highs, a new report says.
- The report, by a group of development, security and conservation think tanks, lists 92 proposals for Lula when he takes office at the start of 2023, centered around ending the culture of criminal impunity that flourished under the outgoing president, Jair Bolsonaro.
- Experts say the absence of law enforcement in the Amazon has strengthened a criminal ecosystem that profits from land grabbing, illegal logging, mining, and wildlife and drug trafficking.
- The Bolsonaro administration has encouraged this in large part by weakening environmental enforcement agencies and putting loyalists in their top posts.

Indigenous community in Peru losing forests to timber, drug, land trafficking
- The Indigenous community of Santa Rosillo de Yanayacu, located in northern Peru, has been facing illegal timber, drug and land trafficking for the past several years.
- Satellite data and imagery suggest deforestation associated with these incursions has increased in 2022.
- The community lacks a communal land title to their territorial forests; experts say this is opening the door to setters who are using threats to bar regional authorities from intervening.
- Santa Rosillo de Yanayacu is one of a number of Indigenous communities in the region contending with deforestation from outsiders.

If there’s an elephant in the room, that’s because it’s not in a protected area
- A newly published study shows that elephants in Malaysia prefer habitats found outside of protected areas, with most of the elephants observed having more than half their home range outside protected areas.
- The main reason for this is that their preferred foods are more abundant in the kind of disturbed landscapes that humans create, such as plantations or secondary
- The study’s findings have important implications for Asian elephant conservation, showing that the current network of protected areas alone isn’t enough and that human-wildlife conflict needs to be managed.

Where is the money? Brazil, Indonesia and Congo join forces in push for rainforest protection cash
- Representatives of the world’s three forest giants – Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo – have signed a cooperation agreement in Jakarta calling for more funding to help protect half of the world’s rainforests.
- The statement follows a loss of 2.3 million hectares (5.7 million acres) of primary forest in the three countries in 2021, most notably due to skyrocketing deforestation rates in Brazil, responsible for almost 50% of global deforestation last year, according to data by the Global Forest Watch.
- Critics say the joint statement lacks action and real commitment. Others say it is a step in the right direction, and international cooperation is urgent to protect the world’s rainforests.
- At COP27, Lula da Silva, Brazil’s president-elect called on rich countries to pay into their 2009 promise of $100 billion for helping less developed countries face climate change and promised to reverse deforestation trends in his upcoming mandate.

Alleged macaque-smuggling ring exposed as U.S. indicts Cambodian officials
- U.S. federal prosecutors have charged eight people, including two Cambodian forestry officials, for their alleged involvement in an international ring smuggling endangered long-tailed macaques.
- The indictment alleges forestry officials colluded with Hong Kong-based biomedical firm Vanny Bio Research to procure macaques from the wild and create export permits falsely listing them as captive-bred animals.
- One of the officials charged was arrested in New York City on Nov. 16, en route to Panama for an international summit focused on regulating the global trade in wildlife.
- This story was supported by the Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Investigations Network where Gerald Flynn is a fellow.

Following the impacts of palm oil alliance: Violated regulations and penalty proceedings
- The journalistic partnership behind a 2021 database gathering information on the penalties for environmental violations given to palm oil producers in Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Honduras has added two more countries: Costa Rica and Brazil
- In these six Latin American nations, between 2010 and 2021, at least 298 cases were opened against 170 companies and individuals involved in the palm oil industry, according to the details offered by authorities in response to requests from the journalists working on the database.
- The handing over of incomplete documents and lack of information are, once again, a common feature of how authorities across the region respond to journalists’ requests. In 181 cases, it was impossible to understand the stage of the penalty proceedings, while in 42 cases there was no concrete information on whether a sanction or fine had been applied. In 47 instances, the exact nature of the environmental violation committed by the target of the proceedings was not specified.

Myanmar communities decry disempowerment as forest guardians since 2021 coup
- Within the shrinking civic space and violent aftermath of Myanmar’s February 2021 military coup, community-level efforts to safeguard Myanmar’s vast tracts of forest from development are buckling under the pressure of rampant resource extraction.
- Representatives of Indigenous peoples and local communities recently highlighted the challenges facing IPLCs in the country, many of whom have been displaced by conflict and estranged from their ancestral lands and forests.
- Environmental defenders and Indigenous rights activists are among those targeted for arrest and detention by military-backed groups.
- Activists are questioning how the world can seriously address global climate change when environmental defenders are actively being prevented from taking action.