Indonesia: Forests and climate up in smoke

Feature story - October 11, 2007
Never has the threat to the world’s forests been more acute nor the risk of dangerous climate change so imminent. With about one-fifth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions being caused by forest destruction we are highlighting how Indonesia is at the heart of this problem.

Local children on a wooden raft surrounded by smoke from tropical rainforest on fire in Indonesia.

Indonesian forests are being destroyed faster than any other major forested country, for logging and oil palm plantations.

This destruction has obvious, immediate consequences for the unique plants, animals and people who call the Indonesian forests home. These forests contain between 10 and 15 percent of all known species of plants, mammals and birds that make up the world's treasure chest of biodiversity. Orangutans, elephants, tigers, rhinoceros, more than 1,500 species of birds and thousands of plant species are all part of the country's natural legacy. But many of these unique forest-dwelling animals, including the orangutan and the Sumatran tiger, are on the brink of extinction.

While the loss of forests is bad enough, there's a double blow for the environment from forest clearance in Indonesia. Beneath most of this forest are thick layers of peat that lock up millions of tones of carbon. Once the forest is cleared the peat swamp is drained and often also burned to make the soil more suitable for palm oil plantations. Burning of the forest and peat results in huge amounts of greenhouse gases making Indonesia the world's third largest climate polluter.

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