Greater Mekong Region One of 11 Places That Will Experience Over 80% of Future Deforestation, says WWF Report
Up to 170 million hectares of forest could be lost between 2010 and 2030 in these “deforestation fronts” if current trends continue, according to findings in the latest chapter of WWF’s Living Forests Report series. The fronts are located in the Amazon, the Atlantic Forest and Gran Chaco, Borneo, the Cerrado, Choco-Darien, the Congo Basin, East Africa, Eastern Australia, Greater Mekong, New Guinea and Sumatra.
Between 1973 and 2009 forests in the Greater Mekong region (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam) declined by almost a third, the report finds. The projection for 2010-2030 is for 15-30 million additional hectares to disappear, primarily due to conversion of forests for crop plantations and agriculture and illegal and unsustainable logging.
These places contain some of the richest wildlife in the world, including endangered species such as orangutans and tigers. All are home to indigenous communities.
“Imagine a forest stretching across Germany, France, Spain and Portugal wiped out in just 20 years,” says Rod Taylor, Director of WWF’s global forest programme. “We’re looking at how we can tackle that risk to save the communities and cultures that depend on forests, and ensure forests continue to store carbon, filter our water, supply wood and provide habitat for millions of species.”
The report builds on earlier analysis by WWF showing that more than 230 million hectares of forest will disappear by 2050 if no action is taken, and that forest loss must be reduced to near zero by 2020 to avoid dangerous climate change and economic losses.
Living Forests Report: Saving Forests at Risk examines where most deforestation is likely in the near term, the main causes and solutions for reversing the projected trends. Globally, the biggest cause of deforestation is expanding agriculture – including commercial livestock, palm oil and soy production, but also encroachment by small-scale farmers. Unsustainable logging and fuelwood collection can contribute to forest degradation, or “death by a thousand cuts,” while mining, hydroelectricity and other infrastructure projects bring new roads that open forests to settlers and agriculture.
“The threats to forests are bigger than one company or industry, and they often cross national borders. They require solutions that look at the whole landscape,” says Taylor. “This means collaborative land-use decision-making that accounts for the needs of business, communities and nature.”
The report is being released at the Tropical Landscapes Summit: A Global Investment Opportunity, an international gathering of political, business and civil society leaders in Jakarta, Indonesia.
“The summit is an opportunity to advance green investment and build transformational public-private partnerships,” says WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini, who will address the summit. “Indonesia has a major opportunity to transition into an innovative green economy that prioritizes human prosperity and well-being as much as a healthy environment. Choosing to retain healthy and natural forests for multiple purposes and to optimize the productivity of the surrounding land will be a compelling example of this approach. We need smart land-use planning that recognizes the long-term value of healthy forest landscapes.”
Despite a recent slowdown, deforestation remains a major issue in Indonesia. Sumatra has lost more than half of its natural forests due to paper and palm oil plantations, and the remaining forest is severely fragmented. WWF projections show that another 5 million hectares of forest could be lost by 2030. Forest cover in the Borneo deforestation front, including Malaysia and Brunei, could be reduced to less than a quarter of its original area by 2020 if current trends continue. New Guinea, which includes Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, could lose up to 7 million hectares of forest between 2010 and 2030 if large-scale agriculture development plans materialize.
“The Indonesian government and local policymakers can shift from development plans that yield short-term gains to land-use approaches that will safeguard forests and provide economic opportunities,” Taylor says. “The moratorium on new forest conversion permits provides an opportunity to assess what can be done to halt these deforestation fronts and develop a greener, more inclusive economy.”
The Living Forests Report aims to catalyse debate on the future role and value of forests in a world where humanity is living within the Earth’s ecological limits and sharing its resources equitably. The Living Forests Model, which WWF developedwith the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, forms the basis for the Living Forests Report.