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

 

FSC makes big strides

Blog entry by Judy Rodrigues | 12 September, 2014

This week, Greenpeace has been squirreled away in meetings with members of the FSC's General Assembly, the membership body that makes decisions about how FSC is governed. To be frank, we've been pretty critical of FSC over the last...

After 20 years it is time for the FSC to properly protect Intact Forest Landscapes

Blog entry by Kumi Naidoo | 9 September, 2014 1 comment

Last night I spoke at the Forest Stewardship Council's (FSC) General Assembly's 20th Anniversary celebration event. As one of the founding members of the FSC, Greenpeace still believes that FSC remains the most credible system for...

Over 100 million hectares of forest wildernesses are suffering shocking degradation

Blog entry by Ilona Zhuravleva | 4 September, 2014 2 comments

After many months of hard graft on mapping and many more hours for further calculations, and laying out the data in tables and charts, we can now, for the first time, say loud and clear that our largest forest wildernesses are...

FSC puts business interests first

Blog entry by Asti Roesle | 26 August, 2014

As a member of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in Switzerland, as well as a Greenpeace campaigner focused on doing everything I can to protect our planet's last untouched forests, I am alarmed that FSC has already decided to...

FSC is failing to protect Russia's intact forest landscapes

Blog entry by Alexey Yaroshenko | 21 August, 2014

As one of the main contributors to our latest report on the role that the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has been playing in the destruction of some of Russia's last intact forest landscapes, I must respond to FSC's statement . ...

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