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

 

Ancient trees are burning in Tasmania...and some will never grow back

Blog entry by Jessica Panegyres | 23 February, 2016 1 comment

For the past month fires have ravaged through parts of Tasmania’s World Heritage listed forests, destroying 1,000 year old trees. Is this the new normal? Over 100,000 hectares have been damaged by bushfires, including parts of...

After 20 years, Canada's Great Bear Rainforest gets the protection it needs

Blog entry by Eduardo Sousa | 2 February, 2016

At long last, today we celebrate the protection of the Great Bear Rainforest  – one of the largest remaining coastal temperate rainforests on earth. Greenpeace Canada began protesting against the destruction of the Great Bear...

7 wondrous facts about the Great Bear Rainforest

Blog entry by Eduardo Sousa | 12 January, 2016

Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest: there’s no other place like it on the planet. As one of the world’s largest remaining coastal temperate rainforests, some of the richest and most wondrous ecosystems on Earth are found here. It is also...

We did it! Victory for China's giant pandas

Blog entry by Yi Lan | 12 January, 2016

2016 has kicked off with great news for pandas. Back in October, Greenpeace East Asia revealed that China’s iconic giant pandas were under threat from rampant illegal logging in the world’s largest panda habitat. 'Loggers in...

Thank you for letting me be a part of your journey

Blog entry by Kumi Naidoo | 21 December, 2015 16 comments

Dear Friends,  As I look out my window here in Amsterdam, winter is nearly here, and with it comes the retreat of another year, and the passing of what has been to make way for the spring and the new. As the days get shorter and the...

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