New study shows Indonesia's disastrous deforestation

Jun 29, 2014 by Richard Ingham
This photograph taken on February 24, 2014 during an aerial survey mission by Greenpeace in Central Kalimantan province on Indonesia's Borneo Island, shows cleared trees to make way for a palm oil plantation in a Borneo forest

Satellite images have found that Indonesia's ancient forests, a cradle of biodiversity and a buffer against climate change, have shrunk much faster than thought, scientists said on Sunday.

Between 2000 and 2012, Indonesia lost around 6.02 million hectares (14.4 million acres or 23,250 square miles) of primary forest, an area almost the size of Sri Lanka, they reported.

Primary or ancient forests are distinguished from managed forests, which are plantations of trees grown for timber and pulp.

The researchers found that primary forest loss accelerated during the period under review, reaching an annual 840,000 hectares by 2012—nearly twice the deforestation rate of Brazil, which was 460,000 hectares in the same year.

"Indonesia's forests contain high floral and faunal biodiversity, including 10 percent of the world's plants, 12 percent of the world's mammals, 16 percent of the world's reptile-amphibians and 17 percent of the world's bird species," said the study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

"Extensive clearing of Indonesian primary forest cover directly results in habitat loss and associated plant and animal extinctions."

Deforestation is also a blow to the fight against climate change, as ancient trees store more carbon emissions from the atmosphere than new ones do, and for a longer period, thus mitigating global warming.

The research, led by geographer Belinda Margono of the University of Maryland, looked at long-term .

During 2000-2012, total forest cover in Indonesia retreated by 15.79 million hectares, of which 6.02 million, or 38 percent, was primary forest, the investigation found.

Distinguishing between primary and managed forest is vital in the campaign to preserve biodiversity and combat , the paper said.

"It is critically important to know the context of forest disturbance, whether of a high-biomass natural forest or a short-cycle plantation," it said.

"Similarly, the clearing of natural forest has very different implications on the maintenance of biodiversity richness."

It noted that in 2010, the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) put Indonesia's overall forest loss at 310,000 hectares per year from 2000-2005, and 690,000 hectares annually from 2005-2010.

Indonesia itself, in a report to the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2009, estimated forest loss of 1.1 million hectares annually from 2000-2005.

Margono's study found the biggest losers were lowland and wetland forests in Sumatra and Kalimantan, where trees are typically chopped down by loggers for use in farming.

In other islands or island groups—Papua, Sulawesi, Maluku, Java and Bali and Nusa Tenggara—primary fell back only slightly or remained stable from 2000-2012.

Explore further: Half of world's forest species at risk

More information: Nature Climate Change, dx.doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2277

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Half of world's forest species at risk

Jun 04, 2014

Half of the world's forest species are at risk from climate change and farming, the United Nations warned on Tuesday, as it called for "urgent action" to manage them better.

Green groups say Indonesia deforestation ban 'weak'

May 03, 2012

A coalition of green groups in Indonesia on Thursday criticised a moratorium on deforestation as "weak", saying the year-long ban still excludes large tracts of the country's carbon-rich forests.

Central African countries to monitor Congo forests

Jul 26, 2012

Ten Central African countries have agreed to take part in a regional initiative to monitor the Congo Basin, one of the world's largest primary rainforests, the UN's food agency said Thursday.

Recommended for you

Climate change report identifies 'the most vulnerable'

17 minutes ago

Extreme weather events leave populations with not enough food both in the short- and the long-term. A new report by the Environmental Change Institute (ECI) at the School of Geography and the Environment ...

Obama readies climate change push at UN summit

3 hours ago

President Barack Obama will seek to galvanize international support in the fight against climate change on Tuesday when he addresses the United Nations, with time running out on his hopes of leaving a lasting ...

New toxic spill traced to Mexico mine

3 hours ago

Civil protection authorities have confirmed new toxic spills in northwestern Mexico, where a massive acid spill from a copper mine contaminated waterways.

World greenhouse emissions threaten warming goal

17 hours ago

Emissions of greenhouse gases are rising so fast that within one generation the world will have used up its margin of safety for limiting global warming to 2°C (3.6°F), an international team of scientists ...

User comments : 8

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

jdswallow
2.1 / 5 (7) Jun 29, 2014

Here is the truth about Ethanol & biodiesel & it is not what some want the masses, which will not get the facts for themselves, to believe.

Science News
... from universities, journals, and other research organizations
Study: Ethanol Production Consumes Six Units Of Energy To Produce Just One
http://www.scienc...2436.htm
jdswallow
1.8 / 5 (10) Jun 29, 2014
The truth is it is former and not the latter that is true. In 2007 I spent 6 weeks in Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo and what is being done to the old growth rain forest on this third largest island on earth is sickening. I understand that it is worse yet in the Indonesia portion of Borneo. It is being cut and destroyed and replaced with palm oil plantations that can be used for bio-fuel production and with the rain forest goes the habitat for the orangutan, the pygmy elephant, the rhinoceros and also the proboscis monkeys plus the unique plant life that occurs nowhere else on earth. This is all promoted by the ignorant "greens" that have no idea about what happens in the real world and only look to the likes of Al Gore and James Hansen for guidance. It is not strange that because of their oil production, Brunei seems to have a good conservation plan and is trying to save their rain forest.
This is just another area where this green revolution destroys rather than saves but the naive "greens" of the world can pat themselves on the back for "saving the planet". A side note, as with ethanol, it takes more energy to produce this biodiesel than what is derived from the burning of it and how can humanity be so stupid to believe that it is practical to use a food crop such as corn to make a fuel out of?
jdswallow
1 / 5 (7) Jun 29, 2014

Why can't Phys.org get their facts straight within the same story?

"This photograph taken on February 24, 2014 during an aerial survey mission by Greenpeace in Central Kalimantan province on Indonesia's Borneo Island, shows cleared trees to make way for a palm oil plantation in a Borneo forest"
Then 3 paragraphs down they say this:
"Primary or ancient forests are distinguished from managed forests, which are plantations of trees grown for timber and pulp."
Pattern_chaser
4.3 / 5 (6) Jun 30, 2014
The problem here is not green but greed.
Perception
4.2 / 5 (5) Jun 30, 2014
Sometimes I don't know why they even bother reporting these things only to depress people in the west. It's not like we can do anything about it as it is the primary concern of the government where the problem is. They don't care - they do it out of self interest, or with the people that actually do it, just to survive! They will use these two excuses to clear all primary forest. What I think is ironic is that these nations will come crying to the western nations for help feeding their starving children when all is said and done.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (7) Jun 30, 2014
Who owns the forests?
Jimee
5 / 5 (4) Jun 30, 2014
Who owns the forests? We all do.
ryggesogn2
1.8 / 5 (5) Jun 30, 2014
Who owns the forests? We all do.

Then expect a tragedy of the commons.