Tag Archives: habitat loss

11 of the World’s Most Jeopardized Forests

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:

1. Amazon

/ CC BY-SA 2.0
/ CC BY-SA 2.0
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

Photo by Alex Popovkin / CC BY 2.0
Photo by Alex Popovkin / CC BY 2.0
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.

 
3. Borneo

 Photo by Col Ford and Natasha de Vere / CC BY 2.0

Photo by Col Ford and Natasha de Vere / CC BY 2.0
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.

 
4. Cerrado

Photo by A. Duarte / CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo by A. Duarte / CC BY-SA 2.0
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.

 
5. Choco-Darien

Photo by Tio Tigre / <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Photo by Tio Tigre / <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
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

Photo by Julien Harneis / CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo by Julien Harneis / CC BY-SA 2.0
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

Photo by CIAT / CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo by CIAT / CC BY-SA 2.0
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

Photo by Christoph Rupprecht / CC BY-SA 2.0OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Photo by Christoph Rupprecht / CC BY-SA 2.0OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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

Photo by Allie_Caulfield / <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Photo by Allie_Caulfield / <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
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

Photo by Danumurthi Mahendra / <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Photo by Danumurthi Mahendra / <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
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.

 
11.Sumatra

Photo by Andrew H / CC BY-ND 2.0
Photo by Andrew H / CC BY-ND 2.0
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

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World’s Largest Herbivores At Risk of Extinction From Hunting and Habitat Loss

Elephants, rhinos, hippopotamuses, gorillas and several other of the world’s largest herbivores are in danger of becoming extinct. According to a study by an international team of scientists, not only will the current trends be devastating to these animals but they will also have serious consequences for the ecosystems in which they live and other species as well.

The study, called “Collapse of the world’s largest herbivores,” was published in the open-access online journal Science Advances in May. In their research, scientists studied 74 different species of herbivores that weigh an average of 220 pounds at adulthood – essentially the size of reindeer or larger. They found that 60% of species in the study are now considered threatened. UCLA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and study co-author Blaire Van Valkenburgh says:

“For some of the largest animals, such as elephants and rhinos, it is likely a matter of a few decades before they are extinct — and no more than 80 to 100 years for the rest of the large herbivores. Even though an individual elephant or rhino might persist in the wild somewhere in Africa, they will be functionally extinct in terms of their impact on the ecosystem.”

Image credit: William Warby / CC BY 2.0
Image credit: William Warby / CC BY 2.0

The study explains that the two largest threats to these animals are hunting and habitat loss. Other factors include increasing human populations and competition with livestock, particularly in developing nations where livestock production tripled from 1980 to 2002.

Research showed that:

  • From 2002 and 2011, the number of forest elephants decreased by 62%.
  • From 2007 to 2013, the number of poached rhinos jumped from 13 to 1,004 per year.
  • From 2010 to 2012, more than 100,000 elephants or one-fifth of the world’s wild savannah elephant population were poached.

Van Valkenburgh says:

“Decades of conservation efforts are being reversed by the entrance of organized crime into the ivory and rhino horn markets. If this were to keep up, there would be very few or no savannah elephants in 10 years, and no African rhinos in 20 years.”

Young rhino
Image credit: Franco Pecchio / CC BY 2.0

One major problem is that the financial incentive for hunting these animals is huge. For instance, rhino horns are more valuable by weight than gold, diamonds or cocaine, reaching as high as $60,000 per pound in Asia. Because of this, the study proposes creating counter financial incentives for people living near the animals to safeguard them, so it would become more profitable to protect the animals than to poach them. The study also stresses the need for social marketing and education campaigns to drive down demand for animal products as food and consumer goods.

The scientists say:

“Large herbivores, and their associated ecological functions and services, have already largely been lost from much of the developed world. Now is the time to act boldly, because without radical changes in these trends, the extinctions that eliminated most of the world’s largest herbivores 10,000 to 50,000 years ago will only have been postponed for these last few remaining giants.”

Image credit: Diana Robinson / CC BY-ND 2.0
Image credit: Diana Robinson / CC BY-ND 2.0

The study also notes that the Pleistocene Epoch, which ended around 11,700 years ago, saw more than 40 species of herbivores in which adults weighed 2,200 pounds or more, but today there are only eight. The extinction of these “mega-herbivores” has drastically influenced our planet’s ecosystems. For example, large herbivores are the primary food source for predators and scavengers and the way they walk over and consume plants affects how vegetation grows. In addition, they are relied on for food on by humans, especially in developing nations, with an estimated 1 billion people depending on wild meat to survive.

The conclusion to the study states:

“Without radical intervention, large herbivores (and many smaller ones) will continue to disappear from numerous regions with enormous ecological, social, and economic costs.”

Featured image: Diana Robinson / CC BY-ND 2.0