The Importance of intact forest areas

Publication - March 24, 2009
Intact forest areas are vital parts of the forest that have not yet been fragmented by human activities like logging, road building or other types of infrastructure. It’s critical to protect intact areas that are still in their natural state.

Intact areas of the Boreal Forest:

  • Have more stable climates than fragmented forests, and can better resist and recover from global warming impacts like increased forest fires and insect outbreaks;
  • Better shield trees, plants and animals from larger changes in the climate;
  • Mitigate global warming by absorbing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and storing it in trees and soil; and
  • Are critical habitat for threatened species like woodland caribou.

Intact forest areas are at risk worldwide with only eight per cent of those worldwide strictly protected.

World map of intact forests

This includes both damaged areas and intact forest areas smaller than 500 square kilometres.

The remaining intact forest landscapes of the world are located in the following areas:

Latin America (35 per cent)

The Amazon rainforest is mainly located in Brazil, which clears a larger area of forest annually than any other country in the world.

North America (28 per cent)

North America destroys 10,000 square kilometres of ancient forest every year. Many of the fragmented forests of southern Canada and the U.S. lack adequate animal travel corridors and functioning ecosystems for large mammals.

Northern Asia (19 per cent)

Northern Asia is home to the second largest Boreal Forest in the world. The Siberian tiger once roamed across huge areas of Northern Asia, but today it can only be found in a small area of intact forest near the Sea of Japan. Only 400 remain in the wild, with twice as many in zoos.

South Asia Pacific (seven per cent)

The Paradise Forests of Asia Pacific are being destroyed faster than any other forest on Earth. Much of the large intact forest landscapes have already been cut down, 72 per cent in Indonesia and 60 per cent in Papua New Guinea.

Africa (eight per cent)

Africa has lost most of its intact forest in the past 30 years. The timber industry is responsible for destroying huge areas of intact forests, and continues to be the single largest threat to these areas.

Europe (less than three per cent)

In Europe, more than 150 square kilometres of intact forest landscapes fall victim to the chainsaw every year and the last areas of the region’s intact forest landscapes in European Russia are shrinking rapidly.

Detailed maps available as Google Earth (.kmz) or Arcview (.shp) file downloads. For methodology explanation and discussion forum go to www.intactforests.org

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