Forests Issues & Threats

What's driving deforestation and degradation of critical ecosystems?

The world’s natural forests and other critical ecosystems like grasslands are hanging on by a thread — they are of critical importance to the world’s climate, food supply, species habitat, and Indigenous Peoples. In places like Indonesia, central Africa, and the Amazon, forests are being cleared to make room for livestock, replaced by mono-crop plantations like soy and palm oil, exploited for timber, and withering from the impacts of climate change.

One year-old male baby orangutan Jelapat plays on the tree at Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation in Nyaru Menteng, Central Kalimantan. Jelapat was confiscated from a resident on June 21, 2016 in South Barito, Central Kalimantan after the owner kept him since December 2015.

Half of the world’s forests have already disappeared, and only 20 percent of what remains is intact. As it stands, the world loses more than 23 million acres of forest area every year. The window of opportunity to reverse deforestation and protect the world’s remaining intact forests is shrinking — and fast.

Not only does this have huge consequences for the climate and for wildlife, but it’s also a major human rights concern: some 1.2 to 1.7 billion people worldwide depend on forests for the livelihood.

That’s why Greenpeace is campaigning to expose the companies that profit off of degrading and destroying forests, and the governments that turn a blind eye, bringing us closer to a deforestation-free future.

What’s Driving Deforestation?

The causes of deforestation vary from region to region but have one important thing in common: us. Human activity is behind all major causes of forest destruction — whether its to support the industries that make products we use every day or by clearing land to grow our food.

Here are just some of the ways business-as-usual is contributing to deforestation.


Agribusiness — in which huge areas of forest are burned or cleared to make space for crops and livestock — is the number one driver of deforestation. These practices are turning some of the most biodiverse areas in the world into monocultures.

Read more about how agribusiness drives deforestation. 

Illegal Logging

Illegal logging is an immense, multi-billion dollar industry threatening forests worldwide. Some research even suggests that illegal activities make up more than 10 percent of the global timber trade, representing more than $150 billion per year.

Read more about the global threat of illegal logging. 

Pulp, Paper and Disposable Packaging

Logging for pulp and paper production can have a tremendous impact on our global forests; from driving deforestation in tropical forests, to degrading huge swaths of temperate and boreal forests. While there are examples of more responsible pulp and paper production that can be found around the world, especially in North America, too often newsprint, book paper, writing paper, tissue and paper packaging is coming at the cost of our healthy forests globally.

Read more about how paper products of all types are harming our forests, wildlife and our climate.


Coal and bitumen (oil) extraction have permanently destroyed large swathes of some of the world’s most important forests. In Canada’s tar sands region, millions of acres of wildlife habitat have been disrupted, with millions more on the chopping block.

Mining for metals like gold, copper, and aluminium not only require clearing forests, it also contaminates forest ecosystems with pollution and runoff.

In the Amazon, illegal mining is a growing threat that is leading to forest loss and contamination of key river systems.


Building roads through forests fragments the landscape endangers wildlife habitat, making it easier for illegal loggers to exploit the forest.

Hydroelectric Dams

Hydroelectric dams can flood upstream forests, causing widespread forest loss, habitat degradation, and the displacement of forest communities.

Threats to Canada’s Great Northern Forest

Continued destruction of the unique plants and animals of Canada’s Great Northern Forest threatens the long-term health of this global ecosystem. Iconic species such as woodland caribou and wolverine are threatened by unsustainable industrial logging practices.

One of the largest logging companies in North America — Resolute Forest Products — is destroying key areas of the Great Northern Forest and has abandoned sustainability efforts. These practices endanger communities whose livelihoods depend on a healthy boreal forest ecosystem.

Greenpeace has been speaking up and raising awareness of Resolute’s controversial forestry practices, yet instead of working collaboratively with Greenpeace and other stakeholders to find lasting solutions for the forest, their workers, and local communities, Resolute has filed a $300 million CAD lawsuit against Greenpeace USA, Greenpeace International, and individual activists, as well as a separate $7 million CAD lawsuit against Greenpeace Canada and individual activists.

Resolute is attempting to silence legitimate public concerns, all the while ignoring scientific recommendations for the health of the forest and the longevity of the forest products industry. Learn more about the lawsuit here.

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