Destruction of Sumatra forests driving global climate change and species extinction

Feb 27, 2008

Turning just one Sumatran province's forests and peat swamps into pulpwood and palm oil plantations is generating more annual greenhouse gas emissions than the Netherlands and rapidly driving the province's elephants into extinction, a new study by WWF and partners has found.

The study found that in central Sumatra's Riau Province nearly 10.5 million acres of tropical forests and peat swamp have been cleared in the last 25 years. Forest loss and degradation and peat decomposition and fires are behind average annual carbon emissions equivalent to 122 percent of the Netherlands total annual emissions, 58 percent of Australia's annual emissions, 39 percent of annual UK emissions and 26 percent of annual German emissions.

Riau was chosen for the study because it is home to vast peatlands estimated to hold Southeast Asia’s largest store of carbon, and contains some of the most critical habitat for Sumatran elephants and tigers. It also has Indonesia's highest deforestation rate, substantially driven by the operations of global paper giants Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL).

At last December's Bali Climate Change Conference, the Indonesian minister of Forestry pledged to provide incentives to stop unsustainable forestry practices and protect Indonesia's forests. The governor of Riau province has also made a public commitment to protect the province's remaining forest.

“This groundbreaking report gives U.S. businesses a roadmap for getting the biggest bang for their buck,” said Adam Tomasek, managing director of the Borneo and Sumatra program at WWF-US. “An investment in Riau Province would both protect some of the world's largest carbon stores and safeguard endangered tigers, elephants and local communities.”

Carbon emissions are likely to increase, the study predicted, as most future forest clearance is planned for areas with deep peat soils.

“The loss of Sumatra's carbon-rich forest ecosystems is not just Indonesia's problem – this affects the environmental health of the entire planet,” added Tomasek.

The report by WWF, Remote Sensing Solution GmbH and Hokkaido University breaks new ground by analyzing for the first time the connection between deforestation and forest degradation, global climate change, and population declines of tigers and elephants.

The province has lost 65 percent of its forests over the last 25 years and in recent years has suffered Indonesia's fastest deforestation rates. In the same period there was an 84 percent decline in elephant populations, down to only 210 individuals, while tiger populations are estimated to have declined by 70 percent to perhaps just 192 individuals.

““WWF is alarmed that the loss of forests is taking such a high toll not only on the remaining wild elephants and tigers in Sumatra but also on global climate change,” said Dr Sybille Klenzendorf, director of species conservation at WWF-US. “The message is clear – the world must commit to solutions that can save these forests if we are to significantly slow the rate of climate change and allow nature and people to flourish in Sumatra.”

Led by global paper giants APP and APRIL, the pulp & paper and palm oil industries are driving Riau's Sumatran tigers and elephants to local extinction in just a few years by destroying their habitat, the study found.

Source: World Wildlife Fund

Explore further: 3Qs: Game theory and global climate talks

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

What do wildfires have to do with climate change?

Oct 14, 2014

As the western U.S. faces its third year of severe drought, firefighters are still battling two large fires in California. The state, which is experiencing its worst drought since record keeping began in ...

Time for worldwide fund to save mangroves: UNEP

Sep 29, 2014

World lenders should set up a "Global Mangrove Fund" to protect these hotspots of biodiversity and vital sources of income, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said on Monday.

Agricultural fires blaze in Borneo

Sep 26, 2014

The skies over Indonesian Borneo were filled with the smoke from hundreds of fires set deliberately to clear farmland. A shroud of thick, gray smoke hung over the area when the Aqua satellite captured this ...

NASA, partners target megacities carbon emissions

Sep 24, 2014

Driving down busy Interstate 5 in Los Angeles in a nondescript blue Toyota Prius, Riley Duren of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, is a man on a mission as he surveys the vast urban ...

Recommended for you

3Qs: Game theory and global climate talks

Nov 21, 2014

Last week, China and the United States announced an ambitious climate agreement aimed at reducing carbon emissions in both countries, a pledge that marks the first time that China has agreed to stop its growing emissions. ...

From hurricanes to drought, LatAm's volatile climate

Nov 21, 2014

Sixteen years ago, Teodoro Acuna Zavala lost nearly everything when Hurricane Mitch ravaged his fields, pouring 10 days of torrential rains on Central America and killing more than 9,000 people.

Nicaragua: Studies say canal impact to be minimal

Nov 20, 2014

Officials said Thursday that studies have determined a $40 billion inter-oceanic canal across Nicaragua will have minimal impact on the environment and society, and construction is to begin next month.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.