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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

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

stranded. Tens of thousands of fires burned. Africa Clear-cutting of rainforest in Peru . Tropical deforestation

Clear-cutting of rainforest in Peru. Tropical deforestation is a major concern to

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.

ecologists. They warn that the loss of biodiversity has unknown consequences. Photo:

Rhett A. Butler

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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 -- 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

2000. The new FAO data says Cambodia's current primary Worst deforestation rate of natural forests, 2000-2005

Worst deforestation rate of natural forests, 2000-2005 Credits: R. Butler

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."

which are sometimes termed "old-growth forests." Highest deforestation of natural forests, 2000-2005. All

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

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.

Breaking deforestation news at the deforestation blog

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Deforestation Charts

Deforestation Charts [ large medium small ] Deforestation in the Brazlian Amazon, 1988-present context of the

Deforestation in the Brazlian Amazon, 1988-present

in the Brazlian Amazon, 1988-present context of the image [ large medium small ] Causes of

Causes of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, 2000-2005 context of the image

in the Brazilian Amazon, 2000-2005 context of the image [ large medium small ] Share of

Share of tropical deforestation, 2000-2005 context of the image

of tropical deforestation, 2000-2005 context of the image Deforestation rates by country, 1990-2005 context of the

Deforestation rates by country, 1990-2005 context of the image

Regional drivers of deforestation context of the image Forest Tables All area figures are in

Regional drivers of deforestation context of the image

Forest Tables All area figures are in hectares.

Worst deforestation rate of primary forests, 2000-2005. All countries.

1

Nigeria

55.7%

2

Viet Nam

54.5%

3

Cambodia

29.4%

4

Sri Lanka

15.2%

5

Malawi

14.9%

6

Indonesia

12.9%

7

North Korea

9.3%

8

Nepal

9.1%

9

Panama

6.7%

10

Guatemala

6.4%

Highest average annual deforestation of primary forests, 2000-2005, by area. All countries

1 Brazil

2 Indonesia -1,447,800

-3,466,000

3 Russian Federation

-532,200

4 Mexico

-395,000

5 Papua New Guinea

-250,200

6 Peru

-224,600

7 United States of America

-215,200

8 Bolivia

-135,200

9 Sudan

-117,807

Highest average annual deforestation of primary forests, 2000-2005, by area. Tropical countries

1

Brazil

-3,466,000

2

Indonesia

-1,447,800

3

Mexico

-395,000

4

Papua New Guinea

-250,200

5

Peru

-224,600

6

Bolivia

-135,200

7

Sudan

-117,807

8

Nigeria

-82,000

9

Cambodia

-66,800

10

Colombia

-56,160

11

Panama

-43,200

12

Malawi

-39,600

13

Guatemala

-26,834

14

Viet Nam

-20,400

15

Democratic People's Republic of Korea

-17,400

16

French Guiana

-12,000

17

Senegal

-11,000

18

Nepal

-7,000

19

Madagascar

-6,800

20

Sri Lanka

-6,000

Most primary forest cover, 2005. All countries

1 Brazil

415,890

2 Russian Federation

255,470

3 Canada

165,424

4 United States of America

104,182

5 Peru

61,065

6 Colombia

53,062

7 Indonesia

48,702

9

Bolivia

29,360

10 Papua New Guinea

25,211

Most primary forest cover, 2005. Tropical countries

1

Brazil

415,890

2

Peru

61,065

3

Colombia

53,062

4

Indonesia

48,702

5

Mexico

32,850

6

Bolivia

29,360

7

Papua New Guinea

25,211

8

Suriname

14,214

9

Sudan

13,509

10

Madagascar 10,347

11

Guyana

9,314

12

French Guiana

7,701

13

Congo

7,464

14

Thailand

6,451

15

Ecuador

4,794

Most "tropical rainforest", 2005. These rankings are estimates.

1

Brazil

2

Congo, Dem Rep

3

Peru

4

Indonesia

5

Colombia

6

Papua New Guinea

7

Venezuela

8

Bolivia

9

Mexico

10

Suriname

11

Guyana

13

French Guiana

14 Congo

15 Ecuador

16 Thailand

17 Malaysia

18 Panama

19 Guatemala

20 Nicaragua

21 Honduras

22 Laos

23 Philippines

24 Côte d'Ivoire

25 Belize

Most number of native tree species, 2005. All countries

1

Brazil

7,880

2

Colombia

5,000

3

Madagascar

5,000

4

Belize

4,000

5

Philippines

3,000

6

Bolivia

2,700

7

Malaysia

2,650

8

Zambia

2,621

9

Peru

2,500

10

China

2,500

11

Guinea-Bissau

2,243

12

Australia

2,100

13

Singapore

2,013

14

Brunei Darussalam

2,000

15

Myanmar

2,000

16

Zimbabwe

1,747

17

Mali

1,739

19

Togo

1,451

20 Venezuela (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

1

Suriname

94.7

2

French Guiana

91.8

3

Micronesia (Federated States of)

90.6

4

American Samoa

89.4

5

Seychelles

88.9

6

Palau

87.6

7

Gabon

84.5

8

Pitcairn

83.3

9

Turks and Caicos Islands

80

10

Solomon Islands

77.6

11

Guyana

76.7

12

Finland

73.9

13

Guinea-Bissau

73.7

14

Belize

72.5

15

Northern Mariana Islands

72.4

16

Anguilla

71.4

17

Lao People's Democratic Republic

69.9

18

Japan

68.2

19

Bhutan

68

20

Sweden

66.9

Includes plantations, non-natural and degraded forests

Highest total forest cover as a percentage of total land cover, 2005. All tropical countries.

1 Suriname

94.7

2 French Guiana

91.8

4

American Samoa

89.4

5

Seychelles

88.9

6

Palau

87.6

7

Gabon

84.5

8

Solomon Islands

77.6

9

Guyana

76.7

10

Guinea-Bissau

73.7

11

Belize

72.5

12

Northern Mariana Islands

72.4

13

Anguilla

71.4

14

Lao People's Democratic Republic

69.9

15

Bhutan

68

16

Cook Islands

66.5

17

Congo

65.8

18

Papua New Guinea

65

19

Malaysia

63.6

20

Dominica

61.3

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

1

Suriname

94.7

2

French Guiana

91.8

3

Seychelles

88.9

4

Gabon

84.5

5

Guyana

76.7

6

Guinea-Bissau

73.7

7

Belize

72.5

8

Lao People's Democratic Republic

69.9

9

Bhutan

68

10

Congo

65.8

11

Papua New Guinea

65

13

Cambodia

59.2

14 Democratic Republic of the Congo

58.9

15 Colombia

58.5

16 Equatorial Guinea

58.2

17 Panama

57.7

18 Brazil

57.2

19 Zambia

57.1

20 Bolivia

54.2

Includes plantations, non-natural and degraded forests

Total forest cover, 2005. All countries

1

Russian Federation

808,790,000

2

Brazil

477,698,000

3

Canada

310,134,000

4

United States of America

303,089,000

5

China

197,290,000

6

Australia

163,678,000

7

Democratic Republic of the Congo

133,610,000

8

Indonesia

88,495,000

9

Peru

68,742,000

10

India

67,701,000

11

Sudan

67,546,000

12

Mexico

64,238,000

13

Colombia

60,728,000

14

Angola

59,104,000

15

Bolivia

58,740,000

16

Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)

47,713,000

17

Zambia

42,452,000

18

United Republic of Tanzania

35,257,000

19

Argentina

33,021,000

20

Myanmar

32,222,000

Includes plantations, non-natural and degraded forests

Total forest cover, 2005. Tropical countries

1

Brazil

477,698,000

2

Democratic Republic of the Congo

133,610,000

3

Indonesia

88,495,000

4

Peru

68,742,000

5

India

67,701,000

6

Sudan

67,546,000

7

Mexico

64,238,000

8

Colombia

60,728,000

9

Angola

59,104,000

10

Bolivia

58,740,000

11

Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)

47,713,000

12

Zambia

42,452,000

13

United Republic of Tanzania

35,257,000

14

Myanmar

32,222,000

15

Papua New Guinea

29,437,000

16

Central African Republic

22,755,000

17

Congo

22,471,000

18

Gabon

21,775,000

19

Cameroon

21,245,000

20

Malaysia

20,890,000

Includes plantations, non-natural and degraded forests