Intact Forest Landscapes: Why it is crucial to protect them from industrial exploitation

Case Study: The Congo

Publication - 23 November, 2011
Following the release of a new report compiling the latest science about large intact forests landscapes (IFLs), their critical importance for people, biodiversity and climate, and the consequences of fragmenting them (in particular via logging and associated road building), Greenpeace releases a briefing focusing more specifically on the case of the Congo Basin.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) alone contains about 63 million hectares of IFLs, representing 70% of the total IFL area in the Congo Basin (90 million hectares) in 2010.

The briefing identifies the major threats to these IFLs, and also suggests solutions to protect IFLs in the DRC, for instance through careful participatory land-use planning and non destructive land use options. Intact Forest Landscapes are a very special category of forests - large blocks, hundreds of square kilometers wide, non fragmented and untouched by industrial logging or farming – amounting to a quarter of the world's remaining forests. They are essential to prevent worsening climate change; to protect the vast array of plants and animals they contain and for local communities who rely on them. Intact Forest Landscapes are irreplaceable. Much of their value, however, is being lost. Infrastructure such as roads – necessary to support the expansion of industrial logging and other large-scale activities - is fragmenting IFLs into smaller forest pieces.

Fragmentation of intact forests alters their ecology and causes biodiversity loss, such as local extinctions of tree species and the animal species that depend on them. Importantly, fragmentation is usually the initial step in opening up an intact forest landscape to further degradation and ultimately deforestation.

One of the key agents of forest loss is industrial logging within an IFL,  no matter how sustainable or selective the logging process pretends to be, as any large scale industrial logging causes fragmentation. Therefore, large scale industrial logging, as other high impact activities, should be located outside IFLs, else IFLs areas will be significantly reduced before they get eventually protected.