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World deforestation rates and forest cover statistics, 2000-2005
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
November 16, 2005


New deforestation figures show Nigeria has worst rate of forest loss

[2010 update]

Nigeria has the world's highest deforestation rate, Brazil loses the largest area of forest annually, and Congo consumes more bushmeat than any other tropical country. These are among the findings from mongabay.com's analysis of new deforestation figures from the United Nations.

Monday, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released its 2005 Global Forest Resources Assessment, a regular report on the status world's forest resources. Overall, FAO concludes that net deforestation rates have fallen since the 1990-2000 period, but some 13 million hectares of the world's forests are still lost each year, including 6 million hectares of primary forests. Primary forests -- forests with no visible signs of past or present human activities -- are considered the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet.

Industrial logging, clearing and forest conversion for agriculture, fuelwood collection by rural poor, and forest fires -- often purposely set by people -- are considered the leading causes of deforestation.

South America

South America -- where large tracts of the Amazon rainforest are being cleared for cattle ranches and soybean plantations -- suffered the largest net loss of forests between 2000 and 2005 of around 4.3 million hectares per year. Scientists are concerned that forest loss could escalate in the Amazon due to increasingly dry conditions. This year the Amazon suffered the most severe drought on record, leaving rivers dry and communities stranded. Tens of thousands of fires burned.

Africa

Clear-cutting of rainforest in Peru. Tropical deforestation is a major concern to ecologists. They warn that the loss of biodiversity has unknown consequences. Photo: Rhett A. Butler

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Africa suffered the second largest net loss in forests with 4.0 million hectares cleared annually. Nigeria and Sudan were the two largest losers of natural forest during the 2000-2005 period, largely due to subsistence activities. At 11.1%, Nigeria's annual deforestation rate of natural forest is the highest in the world and puts it on pace to lose virtually all of its primary forest within a few years. Malawi, currently in the midst of a severe drought and famine, has the world's fourth highest deforestation rate.

FAO figures also show Africa is more dependent on bushmeat -- wild animals captured as food -- than other tropical regions. Bushmeat availability has increased with the construction of logging roads in the rainforest and a number of well-known species including gorillas, chimpanzees, and monkeys are considered at highest risk. There is growing concern among health experts that bushmeat consumption may be linked to the outbreak of unusual tropical diseases including the Ebola virus and Marburg, which broke out earlier this year in Angola. Primates are known to be carriers of these diseases.

Central America, South Asia, and Southeast Asia lead deforestation rates

The regions with the highest tropical deforestation rate were Central America -- which lost 1.3% or 285,000 hectares of its forests each year -- and tropical Asia. Tropical Asia --

Worst deforestation rate of natural forests, 2000-2005
Credits: R. Butler
including the countries of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam -- lost about 1% of its forests each year. According to FAO, Vietnam lost a staggering 51% of its primary forests between 2000 and 2005, while Cambodia lost 29% of its primary forests between 2000 and 2005 [Cambodia's figures were revised by the FAO after this article was published. Original data showed Cambodia's primary forest cover declining to 122,000 hectares in 2005 from 356,000 hectares in 2000. The new FAO data says Cambodia's current primary forest cover stands at 322,000 hectares]. Illegal logging, combined with rapid development, is blamed for much of Cambodia's forest loss.

Plantations offsetting natural forest

Due to a significant increase in plantation forests, forest cover has generally been expanding in North America, Europe and China while diminishing in the tropics. Plantations help offset the loss of natural forests but essentially result in an overall decline in global biodiversity as single species plantations replace their biologically richer natural counterparts.

The United States

The United States has the seventh largest annual loss of primary forests in the world, according to FAO. In the 2000-2005 period, the United States lost an average of 831 square miles (215,200 hectares, 2,152 square kilometers or 531,771 acres) of such lands which are sometimes termed "old-growth forests."


Highest deforestation of natural forests, 2000-2005. All countries. Credits: R. Butler


Overall, when plantations are added to the picture, the US gained a net 614 square miles (159,000 hectares) of forest per year. The FAO report suggests America's primary forests are losing ground to modified natural, seminatural, and plantation forests. Earlier this year, the government revoked President Clinton's 2001 "Roadless Area Conservation Rule" that protected 58.5 million acres of undeveloped national forest, in effect opening more than 90,000 square miles of forests to road construction, logging and industrial development.

UN figures contested

Gold-mining operation the Peruvian Amazon. Scientists are concerned over the global impact of deforestation in the tropics. The loss of forests adds the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide to the atmosphere while affecting local rainfall. Photo: Rhett A. Butler
Some environmental groups have criticized the UN numbers as "misleading and inaccurate" saying that FAO is using industrial plantations to offset deforestation figures for natural forests while relying on flawed figures provided by governments that varying standards of forest monitoring. The London-based Rainforest Foundation notes that "the UN figure is based on a definition of forest as being an area with as little as 10% actual tree cover, which would therefore include areas that are actually savannah-like ecosystems and badly damaged forests." Further, says a press release from the organization, "areas of land that presently have no trees on them at all, but that are 'expected' to regenerate, are also counted as forests."

Despite the criticism, industry experts say that FAO has the best figures available across virtually all countries in the world. Mila Alvarez, who tracks forest trends for World Resources Institute and Global Forest Watch (globalforestwatch.org), told the New York Times "The F.A.O. is doing the best it can given what the governments are providing." Alvarez says the World Resources Institute and other organizations are developing a way to use satellite imagery to analyze forest changes and to verify government estimates.

More deforestation information:
Nigeria has worst deforestation rate, FAO revises figures

Breaking deforestation news at the deforestation blog

Please note: mongabay.com features thousands of pages on deforestation. Good places to start include:

Deforestation Charts


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Deforestation in the Brazlian Amazon, 1988-present
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Causes of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, 2000-2005
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Share of tropical deforestation, 2000-2005
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Deforestation rates by country, 1990-2005
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Regional drivers of deforestation
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Forest Tables
All area figures are in hectares.

Worst deforestation rate of primary forests, 2000-2005. All countries.
1Nigeria55.7%
2Viet Nam54.5%
3Cambodia29.4%
4Sri Lanka15.2%
5Malawi14.9%
6Indonesia12.9%
7North Korea9.3%
8Nepal9.1%
9Panama6.7%
10Guatemala6.4%


Highest average annual deforestation of primary forests, 2000-2005, by area. All countries
1Brazil-3,466,000
2Indonesia-1,447,800
3Russian Federation-532,200
4Mexico-395,000
5Papua New Guinea-250,200
6Peru-224,600
7United States of America-215,200
8Bolivia-135,200
9Sudan-117,807
10Nigeria-82,000


Highest average annual deforestation of primary forests, 2000-2005, by area. Tropical countries
1Brazil-3,466,000
2Indonesia-1,447,800
3Mexico-395,000
4Papua New Guinea-250,200
5Peru-224,600
6Bolivia-135,200
7Sudan-117,807
8Nigeria-82,000
9Cambodia-66,800
10Colombia-56,160
11Panama-43,200
12Malawi-39,600
13Guatemala-26,834
14Viet Nam-20,400
15Democratic People's Republic of Korea-17,400
16French Guiana-12,000
17Senegal-11,000
18Nepal-7,000
19Madagascar-6,800
20Sri Lanka-6,000


Most primary forest cover, 2005. All countries
1Brazil415,890
2Russian Federation255,470
3Canada165,424
4United States of America104,182
5Peru61,065
6Colombia53,062
7Indonesia48,702
8Mexico32,850
9Bolivia29,360
10Papua New Guinea25,211


Most primary forest cover, 2005. Tropical countries
1Brazil415,890
2Peru61,065
3Colombia53,062
4Indonesia48,702
5Mexico32,850
6Bolivia29,360
7Papua New Guinea25,211
8Suriname14,214
9Sudan13,509
10Madagascar10,347
11Guyana9,314
12French Guiana7,701
13Congo7,464
14Thailand6,451
15Ecuador4,794


Most "tropical rainforest", 2005. These rankings are estimates.
1Brazil
2Congo, Dem Rep
3Peru
4Indonesia
5Colombia
6Papua New Guinea
7Venezuela
8Bolivia
9Mexico
10Suriname
11Guyana
12Madagascar
13French Guiana
14Congo
15Ecuador
16Thailand
17Malaysia
18Panama
19Guatemala
20Nicaragua
21Honduras
22Laos
23Philippines
24Côte d'Ivoire
25Belize


Most number of native tree species, 2005. All countries
1Brazil7,880
2Colombia5,000
3Madagascar5,000
4Belize4,000
5Philippines3,000
6Bolivia2,700
7Malaysia2,650
8Zambia2,621
9Peru2,500
10China2,500
11Guinea-Bissau2,243
12Australia2,100
13Singapore2,013
14Brunei Darussalam2,000
15Myanmar2,000
16Zimbabwe1,747
17Mali1,739
18Lao People's Democratic Republic1,457
19Togo1,451
20Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)1,360


The Democratic Republic of Congo should be on this list, but FAO does not have figures for this war-torn country.

Highest total forest cover as a percentage of total land cover, 2005. All countries
1Suriname94.7
2French Guiana91.8
3Micronesia (Federated States of)90.6
4American Samoa89.4
5Seychelles88.9
6Palau87.6
7Gabon84.5
8Pitcairn83.3
9Turks and Caicos Islands80
10Solomon Islands77.6
11Guyana76.7
12Finland73.9
13Guinea-Bissau73.7
14Belize72.5
15Northern Mariana Islands72.4
16Anguilla71.4
17Lao People's Democratic Republic69.9
18Japan68.2
19Bhutan68
20Sweden66.9


Includes plantations, non-natural and degraded forests

Highest total forest cover as a percentage of total land cover, 2005. All tropical countries.
1Suriname94.7
2French Guiana91.8
3Micronesia (Federated States of)90.6
4American Samoa89.4
5Seychelles88.9
6Palau87.6
7Gabon84.5
8Solomon Islands77.6
9Guyana76.7
10Guinea-Bissau73.7
11Belize72.5
12Northern Mariana Islands72.4
13Anguilla71.4
14Lao People's Democratic Republic69.9
15Bhutan68
16Cook Islands66.5
17Congo65.8
18Papua New Guinea65
19Malaysia63.6
20Dominica61.3


Includes plantations, non-natural and degraded forests

Highest total forest cover as a percentage of total land cover, 2005. All tropical countries excluding small islands
1Suriname94.7
2French Guiana91.8
3Seychelles88.9
4Gabon84.5
5Guyana76.7
6Guinea-Bissau73.7
7Belize72.5
8Lao People's Democratic Republic69.9
9Bhutan68
10Congo65.8
11Papua New Guinea65
12Malaysia63.6
13Cambodia59.2
14Democratic Republic of the Congo58.9
15Colombia58.5
16Equatorial Guinea58.2
17Panama57.7
18Brazil57.2
19Zambia57.1
20Bolivia54.2


Includes plantations, non-natural and degraded forests

Total forest cover, 2005. All countries
1Russian Federation808,790,000
2Brazil477,698,000
3Canada310,134,000
4United States of America303,089,000
5China197,290,000
6Australia163,678,000
7Democratic Republic of the Congo133,610,000
8Indonesia88,495,000
9Peru68,742,000
10India67,701,000
11Sudan67,546,000
12Mexico64,238,000
13Colombia60,728,000
14Angola59,104,000
15Bolivia58,740,000
16Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)47,713,000
17Zambia42,452,000
18United Republic of Tanzania35,257,000
19Argentina33,021,000
20Myanmar32,222,000


Includes plantations, non-natural and degraded forests

Total forest cover, 2005. Tropical countries
1Brazil477,698,000
2Democratic Republic of the Congo133,610,000
3Indonesia88,495,000
4Peru68,742,000
5India67,701,000
6Sudan67,546,000
7Mexico64,238,000
8Colombia60,728,000
9Angola59,104,000
10Bolivia58,740,000
11Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)47,713,000
12Zambia42,452,000
13United Republic of Tanzania35,257,000
14Myanmar32,222,000
15Papua New Guinea29,437,000
16Central African Republic22,755,000
17Congo22,471,000
18Gabon21,775,000
19Cameroon21,245,000
20Malaysia20,890,000


Includes plantations, non-natural and degraded forests



More deforestation data

Afghanistan  |   Albania  |   Algeria  |   American Samoa  |   Andorra  |   Angola  |   Anguilla  |   Antigua and Barbuda  |   Argentina  |   Armenia  |   Aruba  |   Australia  |   Austria  |   Azerbaijan  |   Bahamas  |   Bahrain  |   Bangladesh  |   Barbados  |   Belarus  |   Belgium  |   Belize  |   Benin  |   Bermuda  |   Bhutan  |   Bolivia  |   Bosnia and Herzegovina  |   Botswana  |   Brazil  |   British Indian Ocean Territory  |   British Virgin Islands  |   Brunei Darussalam  |   Bulgaria  |   Burkina Faso  |   Burundi  |   Cambodia  |   Cameroon  |   Canada  |   Cape Verde  |   Cayman Islands  |   Central African Republic  |   Chad  |   Channel Islands  |   Chile  |   China  |   Colombia  |   Comoros  |   Congo  |   Cook Islands  |   Costa Rica  |   Côte d'Ivoire  |   Croatia  |   Cuba  |   Cyprus  |   Czech Republic  |   Democratic Republic of the Congo  |   Denmark  |   Djibouti  |   Dominica  |   Dominican Republic  |   Ecuador  |   Egypt  |   El Salvador  |   Equatorial Guinea  |   Eritrea  |   Estonia  |   Ethiopia  |   Faeroe Islands  |   Falkland Islands  |   Fiji  |   Finland  |   France  |   French Guiana  |   French Polynesia  |   Gabon  |   Gambia  |   Georgia  |   Germany  |   Ghana  |   Gibraltar  |   Greece  |   Greenland  |   Grenada  |   Guadeloupe  |   Guam  |   Guatemala  |   Guinea  |   Guinea-Bissau  |   Guyana  |   Haiti  |   Holy See  |   Honduras  |   Hungary  |   Iceland  |   India  |   Indonesia  |   Iran  |   Iraq  |   Ireland  |   Isle of Man  |   Israel  |   Italy  |   Jamaica  |   Japan  |   Jordan  |   Kazakhstan  |   Kenya  |   Kiribati  |   Kuwait  |   Kyrgyzstan  |   Laos  |   Latvia  |   Lebanon  |   Lesotho  |   Liberia  |   Libya  |   Liechtenstein  |   Lithuania  |   Luxembourg  |   Macedonia  |   Madagascar  |   Malawi  |   Malaysia  |   Maldives  |   Mali  |   Malta  |   Marshall Islands  |   Martinique  |   Mauritania  |   Mauritius  |   Mayotte  |   Mexico  |   Micronesia  |   Moldova  |   Monaco  |   Mongolia  |   Montserrat  |   Morocco  |   Mozambique  |   Myanmar  |   Namibia  |   Nauru  |   Nepal  |   Netherlands  |   Netherlands Antilles  |   New Caledonia  |   New Zealand  |   Nicaragua  |   Niger  |   Nigeria  |   Niue  |   North Korea  |   Northern Mariana Islands  |   Norway  |   Oman  |   Pakistan  |   Palau  |   Palestine  |   Panama  |   Papua New Guinea  |   Paraguay  |   Peru  |   Philippines  |   Pitcairn  |   Poland  |   Portugal  |   Puerto Rico  |   Qatar  |   Réunion  |   Romania  |   Russian Federation  |   Rwanda  |   Saint Helena  |   Saint Kitts and Nevis  |   Saint Lucia  |   Saint Pierre and Miquelon  |   Saint Vincent and the Grenadines  |   Samoa  |   San Marino  |   Sao Tome and Principe  |   Saudi Arabia  |   Senegal  |   Serbia and Montenegro  |   Seychelles  |   Sierra Leone  |   Singapore  |   Slovakia  |   Slovenia  |   Solomon Islands  |   Somalia  |   South Africa  |   South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands  |   South Korea  |   Spain  |   Sri Lanka  |   Sudan  |   Suriname  |   Swaziland  |   Sweden  |   Switzerland  |   Syrian Arab Republic  |   Tajikistan  |   Tanzania  |   Thailand  |   Timor-Leste  |   Togo  |   Tokelau  |   Tonga  |   Trinidad and Tobago  |   Tunisia  |   Turkey  |   Turkmenistan  |   Turks and Caicos Islands  |   Tuvalu  |   Uganda  |   Ukraine  |   United Arab Emirates  |   United Kingdom  |   United States  |   United States Virgin Islands  |   Uruguay  |   Uzbekistan  |   Vanuatu  |   Venezuela  |   Viet Nam  |   Wallis and Futuna Islands  |   Western Sahara  |   Yemen  |   Zambia  |   Zimbabwe


Original source: http://news.mongabay.com/2005/1115-forests.html



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