Forests are vital to the planet, providing critical ecosystem services and livelihood to people and shelter to wildlife. But deforestation is rapidly threatening these "lungs of the earth." Between 2000 and 2010, 13 million hectares of forest - the size of Greece - were lost each year due to deforestation and forest degradation.
Half of the world's tropical forests have been destroyed over the last century. If business as usual continues, up to 170 million hectares of additional deforestation will occur by 2030, according to the WWF Living Forests model, and large areas of remaining forest will continue to be degraded.
Most of this deforestation will happen in 11 deforestation fronts, places that will account for over 80 per cent of the forest loss projected globally by 2030. These fronts, ten of which are in the tropics, are where efforts to halt deforestation must be concentrated.
The 11 deforestation fronts encompass the world's largest remaining tropical forests and are home to some of the richest biodiversity in the world, including endangered species such as orang-utans, elephants, jaguars and tigers. The future of these species, therefore, depends directly on the future of forests in deforestation fronts.
Forests offer a range of critical ecosystem services: for carbon sequestration; food security; water services; disaster risk reduction; tourism; and a host of cultural and social benefits. The squandering of forests in deforestation fronts threatens these critical ecosystem services and, in turn, the benefit they offer to humanity at large.
The most common pressures causing deforestation and severe forest degradation are: large and small-scale agriculture , unsustainable logging, mining, infrastructure projects, and increased fire incidence and intensity. New roads can have a small direct impact but a large indirect effect through opening up forests to settlers and agriculture.
Poor forest management, destructive logging practices and unsustainable fuelwood collection degrade forests and often instigate death by a thousand cuts increasing spiral of degradation that eventually leads to deforestation.
In deforestation fronts, forests are often
due to poor governance of land and unsustainable economic activity. The full value of forest biodiversity and ecosystem
services is not recognized, nor is it safeguarded in public policies and governance systems. Forests are replaced by other
land uses that generate higher short-term financial returns, or face gradual depletion through unsustainable harvesting, hunting,
fires and other disturbances.
What can be done to turn back deforestation?
Reversing deforestation fronts will require a concerted effort from:
Policymakers in forest countries: to remedy governance failures
that drive poor land-use choices and principles
Policymakers in consumer countries: to take action through policy and regulatory
measures that hold governments and companies accountable, to ensure better
production and promote better consumption
Companies: to live up to their deforestation-free commitments and implementing
sustainability in supply chains
Financial industry: to invest in sustainable companies
Consumers: to reduce wasteful consumption of forest products and make
better, environmentally-friendly choices.
What is WWF doing to combat deforestation and forest degradation?LEARN MORE