New analysis from Greenpeace has revealed that since 2000, more than 8 percent of the world’s Intact Forest Landscapes (IFLs) – an area measuring 104 million hectares, or three times the size of Germany – have been degraded, with Canada having the highest total area of degradation.
According to Global Forest Watch, Russia, Brazil, the United States and Bolivia join Canada in the top five for most degradation, however that number is skewed by the fact that Canada, Russia and Brazil contain a combined 65 percent of the world’s remaining IFLs. Global Forest Watch defines an IFL as “undisturbed forest areas, large enough to maintain all native biodiversity and showing no signs of human activity [that is] at least 500 km2.”
When accounting for degradation proportional to their initial area instead, Paraguay, Australia, Bolivia, Myanmar and Gabon top the list. An interactive map shows what areas contained IFLs back in 2000, compared to its coverage in 2013.
The fragmentation of IFLs is problematic because species are more likely to become extinct in isolated forest patches compared to more isolated areas. Supporting biodiversity in isolated forest areas is much tougher than in single forests because, even if their combined area is larger than that of a single forest, large mammals such as elephants, tigers, and caribou rely on unbroken forest to maintain their populations.
Because it is much more difficult to piece forests back together rather than simply prevent the degradation from happening, the World Resources Institute outlined several recommendations:
- Government leaders should steer development away from IFLs. In addition, officials can slow IFL destruction by prioritizing legal protection of these areas.
- Companies with sustainability commitments should avoid IFLs when sourcing commodities like timber, palm oil, beef and soy.
- Forest sustainability certifications such as the Forest Stewardship Council and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil should give special consideration to include IFLs in their assessment criteria and ensure effective implementation of commitments to protect intact forests
For the full report, visit Global Forest Watch.
Featured Image: Illegal Deforestation via Shutterstock