Forest loss in Indonesia has sharply risen over the past 12 years, reports a new study published in the journal Science.
The study, led by Matt Hansen of University of Maryland, finds that Indonesia lost 15.8 million hectares between 2000 and 2012, ranking it fifth behind Russia, Brazil, the United States, and Canada in terms of forest loss. Some 7 million hectares of forest regrew during the period.
But of the top five forest countries, Indonesia had by far the highest percentage rate of forest loss at 8.4 percent. By comparison, Brazil lost only half as much on a proportional basis.
98 percent of the archipelago’s forest loss occurred in dense forest areas in Sumatra and Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), where industrial tree plantations and oil palm estates have rapidly proliferated over the past 20 years. Riau Province was particularly hard hit, as an animation released by the authors shows:
Deforestation is also on the rise in the country. In 2011/2012 forest loss reached the highest level since the late 1990’s despite a nationwide ban on new concessions in 65 million hectares of primary forest areas, peatlands, and protected areas. The data suggests the forestry moratorium, which was implemented as part of the country’s commitment to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, may be failing to deliver as hoped.
The results are a stark contrast to numbers released earlier this year by Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry, which claimed that deforestation has fallen on an annual basis since 2005/2006. But the difference between the estimates could be partly methodological — the Ministry of Forestry estimate ignores deforestation on land outside the area it manages and excludes conversion of natural forest to timber plantations, which are classified as “forest.”
Note: Hansen et al’s data includes all “forest cover” including plantations and natural forests, while MoF data only incorporates change in forest cover within Indonesia’s Forest Estate, a zone managed by MoF. Hansen’s “forest loss” data would thus include replanting of timber and oil palm plantations.
The new data, which is based on the rendering of 650,000 NASA Landsat images by Google Earth Engine, a computing cloud run by the Internet giant, is published as a comprehensive database represented as an interactive global forest map. The tool is freely available at earthenginepartners.appspot.com/science-2013-global-forest.
Clarifying Google’s forest map
Hansen, who has published a number of papers on deforestation trends, says he hopes the map can help countries develop better policies for reducing forest loss.
“This is the first map of forest change that is globally consistent and locally relevant,” Hansen said in a statement. “Brazil used Landsat data to document its deforestation trends, then used this information in its policy formulation and implementation. They also shared these data, allowing others to assess and confirm their success.”
“Such data have not been generically available for other parts of the world. Now, with our global mapping of forest changes every nation has access to this kind of information, for their own country and the rest of the world.”
- Matt Hansen et al. High-Resolution Global Maps of 21st-Century Forest Cover Change. SCIENCE VOL 342 15 NOVEMBER 2013
Zero net deforestation is the wrong target, warn experts
(11/14/2013) Environmental initiatives that target zero net deforestation may miss their mark when it comes to slowing climate change and protecting biodiversity, warns a commentary published in this week’s issue of the journal Science. While zero net deforestation may seem like a worthy target in efforts to curb forest loss, Sandra Brown and Daniel Zarin argue that the goal is at best, ambiguous, and at worst, may lead to perverse outcomes for the world’s forests.
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Conservation gets boost from new Landsat satellite
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Charts: deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia, 2000-2010
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Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, Peru get big boost in deforestation tracking, biomass measurement
(07/11/2012) Efforts to rapidly and accurately track deforestation and forest degradation in Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, and Peru got a boost this week with a special technical training session organized by the Governors Climate and Forest Task Force. The meeting, convened at Stanford University and Google’s Silicon Valley campus, paired staffers from government agencies and NGOs in the four tropical countries with technical experts from the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM), the Carnegie Institution for Science, the Forum on Readiness for REDD, Woods Hole Research Center, and Google Earth Outreach. The participants received training to augment existing deforestation, forest degradation and biomass monitoring capabilities, which are highly variable both between countries and within sub-national agencies and jurisdictions.
New Google Earth tool maps deforestation, threatened forests in Sumatra
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Palm oil, paper drive large-scale destruction of Indonesia’s forests, but account for diminishing role in economy, says report
(07/27/2011) Indonesia’s forests were cleared at a rate of 1.5 million hectares per year between 2000 and 2009, reports a new satellite-based assessment by Forest Watch Indonesia (FWI), an NGO. Expansion of oil palm and wood-pulp plantations were the biggest drivers of deforestation, yet account for a declining share of the national economy. The study, which compared year 2000 data with 2009 Landsat images from NASA, found that Indonesia’s forest cover declined from 103.32 million hectares to 88.17 million hectares in ten years. Since 1950 Indonesia lost more than 46 percent of its forests.
Will Indonesia’s big REDD rainforest deal work?
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How satellites are used in conservation
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