Forests - threats

Around the world, lush tropical forests are being logged for timber and pulp, cleared to grow food, and destroyed by the impacts of climate change. Four fifths of the forest that covered almost half of the Earth's land surface eight thousand years ago have already been irreplaceably degraded or destroyed.

Cattle Paths in the Amazon

Every two seconds, an area of forest the size of a football pitch is lost due to logging or destructive practices. Seventy two per cent of Indonesia's intact forest landscapes and 15 per cent of the Amazon's have already been lost forever. Now the Congo's forests face the same threat.

While the causes vary from region to region, they all have one thing in common: human activity. Through agriculture and logging, mining and climate change, humankind is wiping out irreplaceable forests - and the life that depends on them - at a terrifying pace.

View of the Amazon from above. This 1645 hectare area has been logged to plant soy.

Agri-business is responsible for massive rainforest destruction as forests are burned to make way for cattle ranches, or cleared for palm oil or soya plantations. In this way, irreplaceable rainforests are converted into products that are used to make toothpaste, chocolate and animal feed.

Industrial logging for timber, pulp and paper has also devastated much of the world's rainforests. Not only are ancient trees cut down on a vast scale, but unplanned and inefficient practices lead to enormous additional wastage. And, by building roads into pristine rainforests, the logging industry opens them up to secondary effects like human settlement, hunting, fuel-wood gathering and agriculture.

Today, forests face another threat. Deforestation contributes to climate change (overall, it accounts for one-fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions - which is why Indonesia is the world's third largest greenhouse gas emitter and Brazil the fourth). At the same time, climate change itself threatens forests on a terrifying scale.

Rising global temperatures damage and kill trees, and increase drought and forest fires. Dying trees release still more carbon, which further increases our global temperature. This cycle of forest collapse represents a critical feedback loop that could drive warming for centuries, change life cycles on Earth, and usher in a sweeping transformation of human civilisation. The surest way to stop it is to end deforestation.

Pristine forests near Manokwari in West Papua, the last frontier of intact ancient forest in Indonesia

Greenpeace is campaigning for zero deforestation globally by 2020 because protecting forests is one of the quickest and most effective ways to prevent climate change, protect biodiversity and defend the rights of forest communities.

To realise this vision, the international community, corporations, forest communities and individuals in consumer countries will need to work together in an unprecedented, concerted effort. You can read more about the solutions to forest destruction here.

The latest updates

 

Brazilian slaughterhouses take step in the right direction

Blog entry by Richard George | December 17, 2013

The three biggest slaughterhouses in Brazil have taken one more step towards ending the cattle sector’s involvement in deforestation in the Amazon - and with deforestation on the rise , that can’t come soon enough. Four years ago,...

Can deforestation affect global weather patterns?

Blog entry by Dr. Janet Cotter | December 17, 2013

Forests, like other ecosystems, provide ‘ecosystem services’. These are services people need (such as pollination and flood control) and use, but often don’t realise we depend on. They provide us with essential services like the ...

Africa's primates under threat from palm oil expansion

Blog entry by Irene Wabiwa | December 16, 2013

Rumours that the Cameroonian government was on the verge of signing a land lease agreement with Herakles Farms have been swirling for over a year. In November these fears were realised as the government announced that the land lease...

FSC suspends three of Resolute's certificates

Blog entry by Grant Rosoman | December 12, 2013

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) was created in 1993 to allow companies and the public to identify products coming from responsibly managed forests. In order to protect the world’s last remaining intact forests, consumers and...

There are no trees in the Arctic

Blog entry by Sebastian Bock | December 10, 2013

Well, some people will say, there certainly are trees in the Arctic region. So maybe the title should say that there are no trees at the North Pole. But what have trees to do with Greenpeace’s campaign to stop reckless drilling for...

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