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

 

Radioactive Chernobyl forest fires: a ticking time bomb

Blog entry by Anton Beneslavsky | 15 April, 2016 5 comments

For five years now I’ve been a member of the professional firefighting group of Greenpeace Russia staff members that is supported by well trained volunteers and I’ve travelled thousands of kilometres across Russia to extinguish fires.

Time for global business to stop profiting from Amazon destruction

Blog entry by Tica Minami | 13 April, 2016 2 comments

Huge hydropower dams in the Amazon rainforest aren't just bad for Indigenous communities, biodiversity and the climate – they're bad for the companies involved. Here's why. The Amazon is the world's largest remaining area of...

Damning the Amazon

Publication | 13 April, 2016 at 8:00

Brazil’s Amazon region, which includes most of the world’s largest remaining area of rainforest, is under attack by uncontrolled economic exploitation. Mainly as a result of industrial agriculture, cattle ranching, mines and infrastructure...

Sumatran rhino found while forest habitat is lost

Blog entry by Jamie Woolley | 1 April, 2016 1 comment

Last week, researchers announced the first live encounter with a Sumatran rhino in Borneo for over 40 years. But the human pressures that have pushed this species to the brink of extinction are still very much in play. A rhino...

The cattle battle: How one supermarket is stepping up to stop Amazon destruction for beef

Blog entry by Adriana Charoux | 30 March, 2016

Brazil's largest supermarket chain has just committed stop selling beef linked to Amazon destruction and human rights violations – because Brazilians demanded it. Today Grupo Pão de Açúcar – Brazil’s largest supermarket...

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