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

 

This timber must be seized, not sold

Blog entry by Daniela Montalto | 6 November, 2014 4 comments

Today, in waters outside of a Rotterdam port, activists continued tracking illegally sourced timber arriving from the Brazilian Amazon. They confronted a French flagged ship coming from a sawmill dealing illegal timber destined for...

European authorities: time to act on illegal timber

Blog entry by Daniela Montalto | 28 October, 2014 3 comments

Sawmills in the Brazilian Amazon are laundering illegal timber and sending shipments overseas. It's against the law to place illegal timber on the European market, yet the authorities are doing very little about it. Two weeks...

7 inspiring stories of communities taking action for climate

Blog entry by Helena Meresman | 17 October, 2014 7 comments

Stories of communities taking action for the climate and refusing to accept the plans of polluting fossil fuel companies are happening more and more. Here are just a few inspiring climate acts of courage taken by doctors, villagers,...

Greenpeace tracks down illegal timber for export

Blog entry by Richard George | 15 October, 2014 3 comments

My colleagues – and friends – in Brazil spent two months placing GPS trackers on illegal loggers in the Amazon. It's dangerous – but it helps us expose their crimes to the world. Greenpeace activists lived amongst the loggers near...

Endangered species pay the price of palm oil's expansion

Blog entry by Ntumwel Bonito Chia and Denis Kupsch | 3 October, 2014 4 comments

There have been a number of reports in recent months shedding light on the serious threat industrial agribusiness plantations can pose to the habitat of large mammals. Be this the gorilla, the chimpanzee, the forest elephant or...

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