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

Deforestation from cattle ranching also hurts rivers in Nicaragua, study says
- A new study highlights the adverse effects that cattle ranching has had on rivers in Nicaragua’s Indio Maíz Biological Reserve, including decreased food sources for aquatic life and the reduction in the size of fish.
- Deforestation has plagued the reserve for more than 30 years, resulting in the destruction of rainforest for cattle ranching, logging and other illegal activities.
- Local Rama and Kriol communities are carrying out patrols and starting other efforts to protect their land.

Mangrove conservation takes root with local communities on Kenya’s coast
- Mangroves are keystones of coastal ecosystems, protecting shorelines from erosion, providing habitat for fish and other marine life, and storing large amounts of carbon.
- These coastal forests are vital to local communities who have long relied on them for things like food, fuel, and construction materials.
- Kenya has lost half of its mangrove forests in the past 50 years to a combination of factors, including overexploitation by locals with limited livelihood options.
- A variety of conservation efforts in and around the southern city of Mombasa emphasize involving communities in reducing pressure on these coastal forests.

Report: Luxury carmakers still sourcing deforestation-linked leather from Paraguay
- The forests of the Gran Chaco in Paraguay, home of one of the world’s last uncontacted Indigenous nations, continue to be the target of illegal deforestation linked to luxury automakers such as BMW and Jaguar Land Rover.
- Two of three Paraguayan leather exporters shown to be buying hides from cattle grazed in illegally deforested parts of the Gran Chaco have increased their sales to Europe since the issue came to light in September 2020.
- Major European automakers are still unable to demonstrate how their supply chains are shielded from illegal deforestation in Paraguay.

Deforestation notches up along logging roads on PNG’s New Britain Island
- Recent satellite data has shown a marked increase in the loss of tree cover in Papua New Guinea’s East New Britain province.
- Many of the alerts were near new or existing logging roads, indicating that the forest loss may be due to timber harvesting.
- Oil palm production is also growing, altering the face of a province that had more than 98% of its primary forest remaining less than a decade ago.
- The surge in land use changes has affected not only the environment in East New Britain, but also the lives of the members of the communities who depend on it.

Green groups call for scrapping of $300m loan offer for Borneo road project
- The Asian Development Bank is considering a $300 million loan proposal from the Indonesian government to fund a road project in Borneo.
- The 280-kilometer (170-mile) project across North and East Kalimantan provinces are designed to boost economic growth and further the integration of the Malaysian and Indonesian palm oil industries.
- Environmental groups around the world have urged the ADB to impose stricter environmental and social requirements for the project to reduce its expected impacts on the environment and the Indigenous communities living in the region.
- Indigenous peoples like the Dayak rely on the forests staying intact, as do critically endangered species such as Bornean orangutans.

In Guinea, an illegal $6b gold ‘bonanza’ threatens endangered chimpanzees
- Earlier this year, Australia’s Predictive Discovery announced that it had found more than $6 billion in “bonanza”-grade gold deposits in eastern Guinea.
- A Mongabay investigation has found that the company’s exploration is taking place inside the boundaries of Haut Niger National Park, in violation of the law establishing the park.
- The park is home to an estimated 500 western chimpanzees, one of the highest concentrations of the critically endangered primate in West Africa.

Math campus multiplies threats to Rio de Janeiro’s dwindling Atlantic Forest
- A plan to create a new mathematics campus with student accommodation in Rio de Janeiro is being challenged by residents as it calls for the removal of 255 trees in a patch of the already severely diminished Atlantic Forest.
- A study shows the construction site sits on a slope that poses a high geological risk, leaving residents worried about flooding and landslides in an area already affected by intense rainfall.
- Experts say there are irregularities in the licensing granted to the construction, and environmental laws are not being respected.
- The Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics (IMPA), which is building the new campus, says all its licenses are in order, that it will reforest the area, and that the educational and social benefits will be worth it.

Guatemala tightens cattle ranching rules, but can they stop deforestation?
- Guatemala wants to continue to export cattle to Mexico but needs to regulate the industry to prevent the deforestation of the Mayan Biosphere Reserve and other protected forests.
- The government is constructing new cattle pen facilities on the border that could convince more ranchers to participate in a legal traceability system.
- However, even if the traceability system improves, deforestation caused by drug traffickers and other criminal actors will likely persist.

Forest biomass-burning supply chain is producing major carbon emissions: Studies
- U.S., U.K., and E.U. policymakers are failing to count the carbon emissions cost of the forest biomass industry, according to two new first-of-their-kind studies. Though biomass burning is legally classified as carbon neutral, the research found that none of the parties involved is counting emissions generated along the supply chain.
- One study estimated that wood pellets made in the U.S. and burned in the U.K. led to 13-16 million tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2019 alone, equal to the emissions of up to 7 million cars. Should biomass burning be instituted by other nations in the near future, a process already underway, the result could be climatically catastrophic.
- The findings should be carefully considered as representatives of the world’s nations prepare to meet for the COP26 climate summit in Scotland, said experts. “These studies make clear that current energy policy doesn’t match the overwhelming science on the impacts of biomass,” said a member of the U.K.’s House of Lords.
- However, there are presently no official plans to address the forest biomass carbon accounting issue at COP26, though NGOs are investigating inroads to negotiations.

Malaysia’s Indigenous Penan block roads to stop logging in Borneo
- In an attempt to block logging operations by timber company Samling, Penan Indigenous tribespeople have erected two separate blockades in Malaysian Borneo’s Baram region.
- Penan activists allege Samling is encroaching on tribal land without their consent, and say they only put up the blockades after authorities failed to respond to their complaints.
- Samling, which has been granted a license to log in both contested areas, says the allegations that it has operated without consent on Penan land are “malicious and without any truth or basis.”
- One blockade, in the Long Ajeng area, has led to tensions between villagers opposed to Samling’s presence and those in favor of it, and has been dismantled and reinstalled multiple times.

Deforestation threatens tree kangaroo habitat in Papua New Guinea
- A proposed conservation area in northwestern Papua New Guinea has experienced a substantial surge in deforestation-related alerts, according to satellite data from the University of Maryland.
- The still-unofficial Torricelli Mountain Range Conservation Area is home to critically endangered tree kangaroo species, along with a host of other biodiversity.
- In May 2021, communities voiced concern about road construction that was approaching the boundaries of the proposed conservation area and that the intended target may have been high-value timber species found within the region’s forests.
- Investment in local communities and the protection of the forests that these communities provide have led to an apparent rise in tree kangaroo populations, but logging and other potentially destructive land uses such as conversion to large-scale agriculture remain threats in the Torricellis and throughout Papua New Guinea.

Inland mangroves reveal a tumultuous climatic past — and hint at our future
- A new study concludes that the presence of inland mangroves along a river in southern Mexico was the result of climate change-driven sea level rise during the Pleistocene Epoch, some 115,000 to 130,000 years ago.
- The researchers’ analysis of the genetic history of the mangrove trees suggests that they are closely related to trees found on the coastline, and sediments nearby are similar to those found in ocean environments.
- Publishing their work Oct. 12 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team notes that their research highlights the impacts of global climate change.

Biosurveillance of markets and legal wildlife trade needed to curb pandemic risk: Experts
- Almost 90% of the 180 recognized RNA viruses that can harm humans are zoonotic in origin. But disease biosurveillance of the world’s wildlife markets and legal trade is largely absent, putting humanity at significant risk.
- The world needs a decentralized disease biosurveillance system, experts say, that would allow public health professionals and wildlife scientists in remote areas to test for pathogens year-round, at source, with modern mobile technologies in order to help facilitate a rapid response to emerging zoonotic disease outbreaks.
- Though conservation advocates have long argued for an end to the illegal wildlife trade (which does pose zoonotic disease risk), but the legal trade poses a much greater threat to human health, say experts.
- Governments around the world are calling for the World Health Organization to create a pandemic treaty. Wildlife groups are pushing for such an agreement to include greater at-source protections to prevent zoonotic spillover.

Fate of Malaysian forests stripped of protection points to conservation stakes
- In the seven years since Jemaluang and Tenggaroh were struck from Malaysia’s list of permanent forest reserves, the two forests in Johor state have experienced large-scale deforestation.
- The clearance is reportedly happening on land privately owned by the sultan of Johor, the head of the state, calling into question the effectiveness of the Central Forest Spine (CFS) Master Plan, a nationwide conservation initiative the two reserves had originally been part of.
- The CFS Master Plan is currently being revised, with experts seeing the review as a chance to change what has been a largely toothless program, beset by conflicts of interest between federal and state authorities.
- As the revision nears completion, Jemaluang and Tenggaroh highlight how much has been lost, but also what’s at stake for Malaysia’s forests, wildlife and residents.

Forests falling for cashew monocultures: A ‘repeated mistake’ in Côte d’Ivoire (commentary)
- Savannas and dry forests in vast parts of Côte d’Ivoire are being transformed into orchards of cashew trees, just as large areas of its rainforest have fallen for cocoa.
- Grown in extensive monocultures, cashew has raised incomes but led to deforestation and incursions into protected forests, as major stakeholders overlook the loss of trees and agro-biodiversity.
- Pollination and human diets are suffering, too: nature-based approaches like agroforestry are needed to create a diversified landscape that can make cashew sustainable in the long run.
- The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Environmental defenders in Nicaragua denounce government crackdown as elections loom
- Indigenous communities in northeastern Nicaragua continue to suffer from violent attacks by land invaders looking to exploit the area for cattle ranching and gold mining.
- Environmental defenders are increasingly struggling to denounce the violence as President Daniel Ortega targets government critics ahead of elections scheduled for November.
- Many advocates of the Mayangna and Miskito communities have received threats from the government or felt pressure to shut down their organizations.

‘Kew Declaration’ unites experts on reforestation, aims at policymakers ahead of COP26
- More than 2,600 experts and concerned citizens from 113 countries signed the Kew Declaration on Reforestation for Biodiversity, Carbon Capture and Livelihoods.
- The declaration expresses the co-signatories’ concern over large-scale tree plantations of single species and/or non-native trees and proposes that forests be planted to reflect the diversity of natural ecosystems.
- The declaration specifically calls upon “policymakers, financiers and practitioners in countries that have made reforestation pledges” to work with Indigenous and local people and respect their land tenure rights. It also calls for funding and positive financial incentives to be targeted toward reforestation.
- Experts have noted that policies surrounding reforestation could be improved by increasing communication and involvement of people at all levels of projects, especially local communities, Indigenous people and landowners.

To predict forest loss in protected areas, look at nearby unprotected forest
- To predict deforestation risk in a protected area, look at the condition of its surrounding forests, according to a new study.
- The study, which analyzed satellite images of protected forests worldwide, found nearby forest loss to be a consistent early warning signal of future deforestation in protected areas.
- Researchers said national park agencies can use their proposed model to predict how vulnerable protected areas in their countries are to deforestation, and prioritize conservation efforts accordingly.
- But even as these agencies work to protect forests, they should take into account the needs of local communities living in the area, the researchers said.

Fire and forest loss ignite concern for Brazilian Amazon’s jaguars
- More than 1,400 jaguars died or were displaced in the Brazilian Amazon due to deforestation and fires over a recent three-year period, according to a recent study.
- The authors recommend “real-time satellite monitoring” of the Brazilian Amazon jaguar population to enable experts to monitor jaguar displacement due to habitat loss and help them to better target conservation efforts on the ground and to prioritize areas for enforcement action.
- Spatial monitoring will also enable identification of wildlife corridors to keep jaguar populations connected to ensure their long-term survival.

In a sea of oil palms, even monitor lizards need islands of natural forest
- Forest patches in and around oil palm plantations are crucial for the survival of Asian water monitor lizards, a generalist species that usually thrives in human-impacted landscapes.
- A new study focused on the Kinabatangan floodplain in Malaysian Borneo found significantly more lizards in natural forest near oil palm plantations than in the plantations themselves.
- The researchers suggest lizards are particularly dependent on forest patches for breeding sites and shelter.
- The study adds to a growing body of evidence that demonstrates the vital role of natural forest in and around oil palm plantations and reaffirms the importance of buffer zones and habitat corridors that enable animals to negotiate oil palm-dominated landscapes.