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

 

Cargill's palm oil commitment

Blog entry by Joao Talocchi | 30 July, 2014

Cargill, the largest importer of palm oil into the United States, one of the world's largest commodities traders and a palm oil producer itself, made a pledge to break the link between its palm oil and deforestation, peat destruction...

DRC's trees are endangered too

Blog entry by Danielle Van Oijen | 15 July, 2014

When one thinks of endangered species, the usual large animals spring to mind. Elephants, tigers, rhinos. And quite rightly they are the ones who get the lion's share of the attention at the meeting of the standing committee of the ...

6 myths this Indonesian logger didn't want busted

Feature story | 8 July, 2014 at 4:00

A new study published last week shows Indonesia's forests are disappearing faster than anywhere else in the world. In Sumatra and Kalimantan, much of this destruction is in forested peatlands. Draining and clearing peatland forests has a...

Pushing for transparency in Congo Basin palm oil

Blog entry by Amy Moas | 27 June, 2014

The global palm oil industry is at a critical juncture. In 2012 we published a report that outlined how Africa is a new frontier for industrial palm oil production . This may bring much needed development to the continent, but it...

Forest Fire Families

Video | 28 May, 2014 at 14:35

Indonesia's forests are the third largest in the world and its swamp-like peatlands are one of the world's biggest carbon stores. But decades of forest clearance to make way for industrial scale plantations is creating a tinderbox. Smoke from...

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