Threats: Land Clearing and Direct Habitat Loss

Section
7. Stop Further Loss of Natural Habitat and Species
Page
7.3

This is the big one. As pointed out in 7.1 and 7.2 it accounts for over half of all population declines (see Figure 5, webpage 7.2) of native species and is as obvious as it is crude. We burn, chop, bulldoze, log, graze, and drain remaining habitat as if every situation is a one-off, a new ‘game’ whereby there is 100% of the natural world in front of us to convert to human capital. The enthusiasm we apply to this quest is brought home if we visit the website: Rate of Deforestation (theworldcounts.com) which has a counter of forest loss* per day, week, month or year (the snapshot presented above is part way through March 28th, 2022). A spatial measure of same is provided by the excellent UN website ‘Biodiversity Lab’ – UN Biodiversity Lab – Providing decision makers with the best available spatial data to put nature at the center of sustainable development – which has mapping of dozens of layers of environmental status and change, e.g. protected areas, and here is a snapshot of a portion of their map of global forest change 2000-2020 showing parts of Indonesia and Malaysia.

 

 

Switching websites, we can go to the similarly excellent Global Forest Watch site – Interactive World Forest Map & Tree Cover Change Data | GFW (globalforestwatch.org) – and determine causes, as per below:

 

It appears that forest loss in this part of Indonesia and Malaysia is almost entirely due to ‘commodity-driven deforestation’, i.e. for larger scale commercial agriculture, such as palm oil. This can be investigated further by way of their clever alert system that highlights current hot spots of clearing and likely causes:

The binoculars symbol can be clicked on and will reveal precise location and details, such as for western Borneo where indications are that non-compliant clearing is occurring now for palm oil.

 

The details of these hotspots is very helpful, particularly for targeting actions (see 7.8 & 7.9), but to get the overall picture of habitat loss we need to go back to the broad scale and country level to see which countries are clearing most.

(Hansen, et. al.1 2013. 15 Countries with Highest Forest Loss. Mongabay)

 

The graph represents, in part, how much forest a country has remaining, as well as attitude to clearing, and available technology. Clearing is evident of boreal forests, temperate forests, and rainforests, and by First, Second and Third World countries. Shamefully, my country – Australia – comes in 8th, which is particularly bad as we have little forest here owing to our aridity. (For an insight into the forestry industry in the USA, see Section 1.3.1 ‘Books’ – ‘Overstory’).

The above graph distinguishes between gross loss and net loss by accounting for replanting. I would treat such figures for replanting very warily as mostly it is simply forestry replanting with little value for biodiversity. Yes, it is better than nothing, and yes, it has other advantages for concerns such as carbon capture, but otherwise there is no comparison between native forest and tree plantations. To say otherwise is to say that a kindergarten finger painting is as valuable as Holbein’s ‘Ambassadors’, or that my tragic playing of the triangle in primary school is the equivalent of the Berlin Philharmonic playing J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.

 

 

(Greenpeace. 2014. Deforestation for palm oil, central Borneo)

 

*Note: Measures of clearing and habitat loss are confusing because methodologies and definitions vary considerably. ‘Forest’ can mean all areas with >30% tree cover, or purely ‘rainforest’, or ‘tropical rainforest’, and such measures take no account of total vegetation loss of grasslands and grassy woodlands and wetlands, etc…Similarly, ‘tree cover’ can mean any trees, or just areas of >10% tree cover, or variations up to and including ‘forests’. As such, a total figure of habitat loss per year is almost impossible and indications only can be gained via sites such as Global Forest Watch – Global Deforestation Rates & Statistics by Country | GFW (globalforestwatch.org) which states that 411 Mha (10%) of tree cover (areas with >30%  forest cover) was lost between 2001 and 2020 (= av. 21.63 Mha/year, of which Tropical Rainforest loss comprises 64.7 Mha, or av. 3.59 Mha/year, or 17%). This is double the FAO estimate of total forest loss of 10 Mha/year.

Explore Other Natural Habitat and Species

7.1 Introduction

New York is an exciting, mesmerising place. Human culture is extraordinary and often wonderful. Our powers of transformation of the natural world seem limitless. The trouble is, we don’t seem to be able to stop, let alone want to stop. How far ...

7.2 State of Habitat

The Worldwide Fund for Nature’s exceptional ‘Living Planet Report 2020’1, Fig. 19 – reproduced below, attempts to show the global distribution of highly modified, largely natural, and in-between habitats. The dark green areas approximat...

7.3 Threats: Land Clearing and Direct Habitat Loss

This is the big one. As pointed out in 7.1 and 7.2 it accounts for over half of all population declines (see Figure 5, webpage 7.2) of native species and is as obvious as it is crude. We burn, chop, bulldoze, log, graze, and drain remaining habita...

7.4 Threats: Species Overexploitation

After land clearing and direct habitat loss, the next biggest threat for native species is overexploitation. It accounts for approximately 24% of declines1 (see webpage 7.2, figures 4 and 5) and can be as simple and direct as overhuntin...

7.5 Threats: Invasive Species and Diseases

Again, strangely, an unfashionable topic for modern environmentalism, but nonetheless, third on the list of threats to the natural world, with an average score across regions of 13%  (to recap: #1 is habitat loss at 50% and #2 is exploitation of s...

7.6 Threats: Fire

Running across and through almost all threats to habitat is fire. Whether indirectly, through clearing, draining and ‘opening up’ of the bush, and as a result of climate change, or directly, through the deliberate lighting of fires, we are seeing ...

7.7 Threats: Erasing Nature from the Mind

I am going to help you here before you make a terrible faux pas and condemn yourself as a “morally repugnant”  ‘conservationist’, or worse, an old-fashioned ‘preservationist’. You cannot see this picture of the Peruvian Amazon. Look awa...

7.8 Habitat and Species Protection Goals

The most relevant international goals for habitat and species protection for the latest decade, 2010-20, were the so-called ‘Aichi goals’. (‘Aichi’, because the location where the UN Convention on Biological Diversity was signed by 193 signatory n...

7.9 Acting for Habitat and Species

Everything in T10 is designed either to increase the protection of habitat and species, or reduce the pressures on same. As such, actions outlined in each of the 10 sections will – directly or indirectly – make a significant contribution. This sai...

7.10 The Future

Jorgen Randers was one of the authors of the seminal ‘Limits to Growth’ in 19721, as well as the 30-year update published in 20042. In 2012 he published ‘2052 – A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years’3. It woul...

Explore Other Sections

1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship
1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship 1.1 Articles 1.2 Art Installations 1.3 Books 1.4 Buildings 1.5 Film, Documentaries, Podcasts 1.6 Music 1.7 Paintings 1.8 Photographs 1.9 Poems 1.10 Spiritual Responses
1/11

1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship

This section is designed to foster appreciation and insight that will – hopefully – lead to novel ways to build a better relationship between human beings and Nature. This section is also atypical ...
2. Reduce Consumption
2. Reduce Consumption

2. Reduce Consumption

I hope Reneé Descartes would forgive us for saying that, at least for the modern world, he was wrong.  When, in 1637, he said: “I think, therefore I am”, he could not have anticipated that the majo...
3. Replace God of Growth with God of Quality
3. Replace God of Growth with God of Quality

3. Replace God of Growth with God of Quality

In a supposedly secular age there has arisen a global religion and god like never before, a religion whose reach and power makes every other belief system before it seem pitiful and insignificant: ...
4. Work, Volunteer, Act for the Environment
4. Work, Volunteer, Act for the Environment

4. Work, Volunteer, Act for the Environment

What we do in our day-to-day lives can have great impact. Section Four divides up these actions into three groups – Work (4.2 & 4.3), Volunteering (4.4), and Action, e.g. voting, protesting, et...
5. Reduce Population
5. Reduce Population

5. Reduce Population

Even on top of Mt. Everest, in one of the remotest, most difficult places on earth, there is a great traffic-jam of people jostling for position. And yet, ever more vociferously, we deny that overp...
6. Ensure Media Acknowledgement of Environmental Context
6. Ensure Media Acknowledgement of Environmental Context

6. Ensure Media Acknowledgement of Environmental Context

The media is one of the three, great ‘poles’ of power in the world (alongside political and corporate power) and how they frame and present ‘the environment’ has a profound effect on how we respond...
7. Stop Further Loss of Natural Habitat and Species
7. Stop Further Loss of Natural Habitat and Species

7. Stop Further Loss of Natural Habitat and Species

New York is an exciting, mesmerising place. Human culture is extraordinary and often wonderful. Our powers of transformation of the natural world seem limitless. The trouble is, we don’t seem to be...
8. Assist Energy Descent and Transition
8. Assist Energy Descent and Transition

8. Assist Energy Descent and Transition

Our current energy largesse is an extraordinary ‘gift’, an unprecedented gift of the ages; millions of years to produce and from millions of years ago. Coal, oil and gas, forming...
9. Support New, Environmentally-Aware, Economic Systems
9. Support New, Environmentally-Aware, Economic Systems

9. Support New, Environmentally-Aware, Economic Systems

Just as with the previous section – ‘Energy’ – which is, inescapably, all about fossil fuels so pre-eminent and extraordinary has been their dominance and transformation of the world in the last 20...
10. Reduce Wastes to the Rate of Natural Assimilation
10. Reduce Wastes to the Rate of Natural Assimilation

10. Reduce Wastes to the Rate of Natural Assimilation

Section 10 will attempt to organise this enormous topic by addressing the context and status of pollution in 10.2, before focussing in on air pollution; particularly greenhouse gas pollution and cl...