Imagine our world without up to 656,000 square miles of forest – an area than twice the size of Texas. Our world would look a lot different.
According to a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report released in April, this could be the case by 2030. The report identified 11 regions around the world with the greatest expected loss of forest over the next 15 years.
These forests are home to countless animals, including rare and endangered species, and such habitat loss would be detrimental to them. And even worse, it could all happen in as little as 15 years from now unless we address major forest threats like mining, illegal logging, agriculture and road construction.
Here are the 11 forests identified in the WWF report:
The Amazon jungle is the world’s largest forest, but it’s also projected to have the greatest habitat loss. Over a quarter of the forest will be gone if current trends persist, especially today’s cattle ranching and agriculture in the region.
2. Atlantic Forest/Gran Chaco
The Atlantic forest spans parts of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina and is one of the richest rainforests in the world, with more biodiversity per acre than the Amazon. But 75% of the Brazilian population lives there, causing deforestation in both the Atlantic forest and the neighboring dry forest Gran Chaco.
In 2030, there could be as little as 33% of the lowland Borneo rainforest left. Weak government and instability only exacerbate deforestation as more and more people create palm oil plantations in the region.
The Cerrado is a high plateau region in Brazil that isn’t as well-known as the Amazon but is just as threatened. Cattle ranching and converting forest to soy plantations are the major causes of deforestation.
Running along South America’s northwestern Pacific coast, these forests face deforestation from roads, power lines, mining and oil exploration. Most damage has occurred in the Ecuadorian Choco, but the regions in Panama and Colombia are also in jeopardy.
6. Congo Basin
The Congo Basin is one of the world’s most important wilderness regions, containing 20% of the planet’s tropical forests and the most biodiversity in Africa. These forests are especially threatened because the human population is expected to double by 2030.
7. Eastern Africa
This region has the miombo woodlands and coastal and mountain forests, all of which are threatened. The forests are illegally logged, over-harvested for timber and fuel wood or converted to livestock and cash crops. Sadly, the coastal forests of Tanzania and Kenya are already down to 10% of their original area.
8. Eastern Australia
Although there have been recent reductions in deforestation in the states of Queensland and New South Wales, weak legislation raises concerns about forest loss. Conversion of forest land to pastures for livestock is the main cause of deforestation, but key species are affected, including koalas, possums, gliders and birds.
9. Greater Mekong
Because of a booming economy, the region’s forest land is being converted for sugar, rice, rubber and biofuels. But as more and more of the forests are converted for economic development, the area’s animals become increasingly threatened and the Greater Mekong forests are rich in species. For instance, in 2011 alone, 126 new species were discovered there, including fish, snakes, frogs and bats.
10. New Guinea
New Guinea and neighboring islands are home to the largest remaining regions of tropical forests in the Asia-Pacific area and home to more than 6% of the world’s species. But with agriculture on the rise, the forests and their inhabitants are in jeopardy.
Indonesia’s palm oil production is now centered in Sumatra, and particularly the Riau province, causing deforestation in the area. It even affects protected forests and national parks, threatening the region’s rhinos, tigers, orangutans, and other wildlife
What Can We Do?
WWF believes that stopping deforestation now is more strategic and cost-effective than dealing with the consequences later. Deforestation accounts for around 15% of global carbon emissions – more than the total emissions from every single the motor vehicles, airplanes and ships in the world. If we don’t address this issue and take action, we could lose over 600,000 square miles of our planet’s forests. With that, we would lose the benefits those forests provide, including jobs, clean water and wood, and we would lose precious habitat for much of the world’s wildlife and many endangered species.
Featured image by David Evers / CC BY 2.0
Over the next 100 years, our planet’s tropical amphibians may go extinct.
A new study found that in the last 30-40 years, 200 frog species have gone extinct around the world and that hundreds more may disappear in the next century. Habitat loss and destruction, climate change and deadly diseases are the factors that put these amphibians at risk.
John Alroy, associate professor in biological sciences at the Macquarie University in Australia authored the study. To estimate the number of extinct species, he looked at samples from museums of amphibians and reptiles in nine different regions and compared them to published observations.
Some of the worst rates of extinction were in Latin America, possibly due to the chytrid fungus. Alroy says:
“There’s pretty good agreement that the biggest threat for amphibians is the [chytrid] (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) fungus. However, I think habitat destruction might have a bigger role than people realize — and future climate change is going to have huge and unpredictable consequences.”
While tropical amphibians face high extinction rates, those in the Southeast United States do not. In addition, reptiles in all regions faced low extinction rates except in a few areas like Madagascar.
There are 703 species and sub-species of primates in the world, from apes to monkeys to lemurs. And more than half of them are facing extinction.
Most of the endangered statuses of these primates are caused by habitat loss and destruction, like burning forests, as well as poaching and the illegal wildlife trade.
Leading primatologist and director of conservation at Bristol Zoological Society in Britain, Christoph Schwitzer says:
“This research highlights the extent of the danger facing many of the world’s primates. We hope it will focus people’s attention on these lesser-known primate species, some of which most people will probably have never heard of.”
First timers on the most endangered list include the Philippine tarsier and the Lavasoa dwarf lemur from Madagascar – a species discovered just two years ago. Other primates on the list, like the Roloway monkey from Ghana and the Ivory Coast, are on the brink of extinction.
The red colobus monkey in Africa and some of South America’s howler monkeys and spider monkeys are also threatened. These species are larger primates, which makes them easy targets for bushmeat hunting.
“Some of these animals have tiny populations remaining in the wild. Support and action to help save them is vital if we are to avoid losing these wonderful animals forever.”
Here is the list of the 25 most endangered primates for 2014-2016, along with their estimated remaining population size. Five of the primates are from Madagascar, five from Africa, 10 from Asia, and five from Central and South America:
1. Lavasoa dwarf lemur – unknown
2. Lac Alaotra bamboo lemur – about 2,500-5,000
3. Red ruffed lemur – unknown
4. Northern sportive lemur – around 50
5. Perrier’s sifaka – 1,700-2,600
6. Rondo dwarf galago – unknown, but remaining habitat is just 40 square miles
7. Roloway monkey – unknown, but thought to be on the verge of extinction
8. Preuss’s red colobus monkey – unknown
9. Tana River red colobus monkey – 1,000 and declining
10. Eastern lowland gorilla – 2,000-10,000
11. Philippine tarsier – unknown
12. Javan slow loris – unknown
13. Pig-tailed langur – 3,300
14. Cat Ba langur (golden-headed langur) – 60
15. Delacour’s langur – 234-275
16. Tonkin snub-nosed monkey – less than 250
17. Kashmir grey langur – unknown
18. Western purple-faced langur – unknown
19. Hainan gibbon – 25
20, Sumatran orangutan – 6,600
21. Ka’apor capuchin – unknown
22. San Martin titi monkey – unknown
23. Northern brown howler monkey – less than 250 mature animals
24. Colombian brown spider monkey – unknown
25. Ecuadorian brown-headed spider monkey – unknown
The list comes from a report that was put together by the IUCN, Bristol Zoological Society, International Primatological Society and Conservation International and is updated every two years
The Javan rhino is one of the most rare and endangered rhinos in the world. After capturing these three Javan calves on camera in Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park, the tiny rhino population rises from 57 to 60. The calves, which consist of females and one male, have been captured by forest cameras at various times in 2015.
A new plan has been made to stop the declining numbers of great apes in Central Africa.
The plan, called “Regional Action Plan for the Conservation of Western Lowland Gorillas and Central Chimpanzees 2015-2025” outlines the growing threats to apes across six countries. Some of the threats include poaching, habitat loss, disease, gaps in law enforcement, prominent traffickers in the wildlife trade, and more.
Across these six countries, almost 80% of great apes live outside the nationally and internationally protected areas. WWF’s Great Apes Programme Manager David Greer says:
“Central African governments have demonstrated increased willingness to protect the dwindling populations of gorillas and chimpanzees. Now bold steps are needed to ensure that existing wildlife laws are upheld and that weak governance, which results in widespread impunity for wildlife traffickers, is eliminated, to give great apes the opportunity to survive and thrive.”
Although the previous plan from 2005 helped slow the decline of ape populations, growing human populations and expanding industries are putting pressure on the remaining apes. The new plan addresses these issues by identifying 18 landscapes as critical for the animals’ survival. In addition, the plan calls for improvements in law enforcement, management of great ape habitats and land-use planning.
The new plan was published by WWF, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Wildlife Conservation Society and partners and was funded by the Arcus Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Great Apes Survival Partnership. It is the combined work of 70 conservationists, scientists, wildlife health experts and wildlife authorities, protected area managers donors from the six countries in the region.
Featured image by Joachim Huber / CC BY-SA 2.0
3,200 acres of Giant Panda habitat has been destroyed by loggers.
The logging is occurring illegally in the Sichuan Sanctuaries, a string of protected forest in the highlands of south-central China. Despite the government’s efforts to halt the practice, there are weak forestry regulations that allow the forest to be exploited for profit.
Greenpeace’s report on the issue states:
“Large areas of primary natural forest are a basic condition for the survival and reproduction of giant pandas in the wild. Deforestation further reduces and fragments the already limited natural habitat of the species, and is a direct threat to their feeding and migration zone. It increases the risk that their small and dispersed populations become increasingly cut off, limiting their chances to make contact with each other and reproduce.”
Less than 1,900 pandas still exist in the wild, most residing in the Sichuan province. And although the population has rebounded since 2003, the species is still considered at high risk. Habitat loss from illegal logging only puts them in more jeopardy.
Indonesia’s forests are burning as palm oil companies clear land to plant their cash crop, which is used in everything from cosmetics to food. That very same land is home to wild orangutans and other rare animals.
Satellite photography shows that about 100,000 fires have already burned in Indonesia since July, with thousands of those occurring deep in the forests and national parks across the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. These fires are threatening several animals, which include the rare clouded leopard, the iconic hornbill and as many as one third of the world’s remaining orangutans.
358 fire “hotspots” have been found inside the Sabangau Forest in Borneo, which is home to 7,000 wild orangutans – the world’s largest population. Fires are also occurring in the Tanjung Puting national park where 6,000 of the wild apes reside, the Katingan forest with 3,000 and the Mawas reserve with an estimated 3,500.
These kinds of fires produce an abundance of harmful gases and particulates, causing serious problems for both orangutans and humans. Up to 500,000 people have suffered respiratory infections, in addition to several orangutans. Communications manager for International Animal Rescue, which runs a rehabilitation center for more than 125 injured and orphaned orangutans in Ketapang, Borneo, Lis Key says:
“The problem with fire and smoke is absolutely dire. Wild orangutans and orangutans in centers like ours are badly affected by the smoke,” she said. “Some suffer upper respiratory tract infections, which can even prove fatal. Some of the babies we’ve taken in recently have been suffering not only from dehydration and malnourishment through lack of food but also breathing problems from the polluted air.”
Not only do the fires threaten orangutans with disease and malnutrition, but also with habitat loss. The apes are being pushed out of their homes into areas closer to humans, where they are killed or sold into the pet trade.
The fires have burned out of control from an unusually dry and windy season due El Niño weather patterns. And one of the worst parts of the fires is that they can occur underground, re-emerging away from the initial source. This makes them extremely difficult to extinguish and contain. Unfortunately, the Indonesian fires may not end the rainy season begins mid-November, if then.