Forests - Threats

Eight thousand years ago, large tracts of ancient forest covered almost half the earth's land area. Today, only one fifth of the original forests remain intact, the rest having been destroyed, degraded or fragmented by relentless human activity.

Clearcutting Canada's temperate rainforest in Tofino Creek, Clayoquot Sound.

The primary causes of forest loss and degradation vary from region to region. They include agricultural expansion, mining , settlement, shifting agriculture, plantation establishment and infrastructural development.

However, recent research by the Washington based World Resources Institute (WRI) concludes that "commercial logging poses by far the greatest danger to frontier forests ... affecting more than 70 percent of the world's threatened frontiers."

There now exists considerable evidence to show that industrial logging is another key factor in opening up previously unlogged forest to many secondary effects, such as large-scale hunting, illegal trade in bushmeat - including meat from apes, fuel-wood gathering and clearing for agriculture.

While logging is one of the most important causes of forest loss and degradation, the way the logging industry operates also exacerbates the problem.

Unplanned tree cutting and inefficient processing leads to an enormous wastage of wood, while lack of transparency within the industry makes it very difficult to trace the exact source of wood supply.

This makes it impossible to determine how well the forest from which it came is managed, leaving the industry open to widespread irresponsible and illegal practices worldwide.