By Rhett A. Butler 

A Place Out of Time: Tropical Rainforests and the Perils They Face – information on tropical forests, deforestation, and biodiversity


Rainforests are forest ecosystems characterized by high levels of rainfall, an enclosed canopy and high species diversity. While tropical rainforests are the best-known type of rainforest and the focus of this section of the web site, rainforests are actually found widely around the world, including temperate regions in Canada, the United States, and the former Soviet Union.

Tropical rainforests typically occur in the equatorial zone between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn, latitudes that have warm temperatures and relatively constant year-round sunlight. Tropical rainforests merge into other types of forest depending on the altitude, latitude, and various soil, flooding, and climate conditions. These forest types form a mosaic of vegetation types which contribute to the incredible diversity of the tropics.

The bulk of the world’s tropical rainforest occurs in the Amazon Basin in South America. The Congo Basin and Southeast Asia, respectively, have the second and third largest areas of tropical rainforest. Rainforests also exist on some the Caribbean islands, in Central America, in India, on scattered islands in the South Pacific, in Madagascar, in West and East Africa outside the Congo Basin, in Central America and Mexico, and in parts of South America outside the Amazon. Brazil has the largest extent of rainforest of any country on Earth.Chart and graph showing the state of the world's largest tropical rainforests in 2020. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

Rainforests provide important ecological services, including storing hundreds of billions of tons of carbon, buffering against flood and drought, stabilizing soils, influencing rainfall patterns, and providing a home to wildlife and Indigenous people. Rainforests are also the source of many useful products upon which local communities depend.

While rainforests are critically important to humanity, they are rapidly being destroyed by human activities. The biggest cause of deforestation is conversion of forest land for agriculture. In the past subsistence agriculture was the primary driver of rainforest conversion, but today industrial agriculture — especially monoculture and livestock production — is the dominant driver of rainforest loss worldwide. Logging is the biggest cause of forest degradation and usually proceeds deforestation for agriculture.

Organization of this site

The rainforest section of Mongabay is divided into ten “chapters” (the original text for the site was a book, but has since been adapted for the web), with add-on content in the form of special focal sections (e.g. The Amazon, the Congo, REDDNew GuineaSulawesiForests in Brazil, etc), appendices, and other resources.

There is also a version of the site geared toward younger readers at kids.mongabay.com.

Tropical rainforest in Borneo. Photo by Rhett A. Butler
Tropical rainforest in Borneo. Photo by Rhett A. Butler


Chapter 1:


Each rainforest is unique, but there are certain features common to all tropical rainforests.

  • Location: rainforests lie in the tropics.
  • Rainfall: rainforests receive at least 80 inches (200 cm) of rain per year.
  • Canopy: rainforests have a canopy, which is the layer of branches and leaves formed by closely spaced rainforest trees some 30 meters (100 feet) off the ground. A large proportion of the plants and animals in the rainforest live in the canopy.
  • Biodiversity: rainforests have extraordinarily highs level of biological diversity or “biodiversity”. Scientists estimate that about half of Earth’s terrestrial species live in rainforests.
  • Ecosystem services: rainforests provide a critical ecosystem services at local, regional, and global scales, including producing oxygen (tropical forests are responsible for 25-30 percent of the world’s oxygen turnover) and storing carbon (tropical forests store an estimated 229247 billion tons of carbon) through photosynthesis; influencing precipitation patterns and weathermoderating flood and drought cycles; and facilitating nutrient cycling; among others.

The global distribution of tropical rainforests can be broken up into four biogeographical realms based roughly on four forested continental regions: the Afrotropical, the Australiasian, the Indomalayan/Asian, and the Neotropical. Just over half the world’s rainforests lie in the Neotropical realm, roughly a quarter are in Africa, and a fifth in Asia.

Map showing world distribution of rainforests.
Map showing the world’s rainforests, defined as primary forests in the tropics. Click to enlarge.

These realms can be further divided into major tropical forest regions based on biodiversity hotspots, including:

  1. Amazon: Includes parts of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela
  2. Congo: Includes parts of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Republic of Congo
  3. Australiasia: Includes parts of Australia, Indonesian half of New Guinea, Papua New Guinea
  4. Sundaland: Includes parts of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore
  5. Indo-Burma: Includes parts of Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam
  6. Mesoamerica: Includes parts of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama
  7. Wallacea: Sulawesi and the Maluku islands in Indonesia
  8. West Africa: Includes parts of Benin, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Togo
  9. Atlantic forest: Includes parts of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay
  10. Choco: Includes parts of Colombia, Ecuador, Panama

Dozens of countries have tropical forests. The countries with the largest areas of tropical forest are:

  • Brazil
  • Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
  • Indonesia
  • Peru
  • Colombia

Other countries that have large areas of rainforest include Bolivia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Ecuador, Gabon, Guyana, India, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Congo, Suriname, and Venezuela.

Cover and loss by rainforest region

Primary forest extentTree cover extent
Rainforest region200120102020200120102020
West Africa9.810.910.215.648.541.8
Atlantic forest11.19.79.349.396.389.0
Primary forest lossTree cover change
Rainforest regionM ha (%)M ha (%)M ha (%)M ha (%)
Amazon-13.18 (-2.4%)-17.28 (-3.2%)-14.7 (-2.2%)-29.8 (-4.5%)
Congo-1.46 (-0.8%)-4.68 (-2.7%)-0.8 (-0.3%)-12.7 (-4.2%)
Australiasia-0.29 (-0.5%)-0.86 (-1.3%)0.2 (0.2%)-1.4 (-1.5%)
Sundaland-2.22 (-5.5%)-3.67 (-6.4%)-1.5 (-2.3%)-9.5 (-7.8%)
Indo-Burma-1.62 (-10.5%)-2.14 (-5.0%)-0.6 (-1.6%)-6.4 (-4.2%)
Mesoamerica-1.10 (-2.5%)-2.51 (-14.4%)-7.3 (-4.6%)-13.9 (-25.6%)
Wallacea-0.66 (-3.6%)-1.36 (-8.9%)-1.9 (-3.3%)-4.6 (-17.5%)
West Africa-0.30 (-3.1%)-0.50 (-4.6%)-0.1 (-0.8%)-1.2 (-2.4%)
Atlantic forest-0.24 (-2.1%)-0.62 (-6.4%)-0.7 (-1.5%)-6.8 (-7.0%)
Choco-0.33 (-3.3%)-0.35 (-4.1%)-3.5 (-3.5%)-7.3 (-46.0%)
PAN-TROPICS-23.11 (-2.2%)-37.34 (-3.7%)-68.9 (-3.4%)-120.3 (-6.1%)
Bar chart showing the world's largest  rainforests.
Bar chart showing the world’s largest rainforests as defined by the area of primary forest cover according to Hansen / WRI 2020.
Bar chart showing the world's largest  rainforests.
Bar chart showing the world’s largest rainforests as defined by the area of primary forest cover according to Hansen / WRI 2020.
Tropical primary forest cover and tree cover by country in 2020
Tropical primary forest cover and tree cover by country in 2020

Tropical forest cover and loss by country

Units: million hectaresPrimary forest extentTree cover extent
DR Congo104.6103.499.8198.8198.5188.0
Central African Republic7.
Papua New Guinea32.632.431.942.942.941.9
Republic of Congo21.221.120.826.426.626.0
Rest of the tropics59.658.053.9210.1203.5183.3
Grand Total1,029.61,006.5969.12,009.71,959.41,839.1
Primary forest lossTree cover change
CountryM ha (%)M ha (%)M ha (%)M ha (%)
Brazil-11.37 (-3.3%)-13.15 (-4.0%)-18.25 (-3.5%)-29.93 (-6.0%)
DR Congo-1.16 (-1.1%)-3.67 (-3.5%)-0.37 (-0.2%)-10.50 (-5.3%)
Indonesia-3.63 (-3.9%)-5.85 (-6.5%)-2.09 (-1.3%)-15.98 (-10.1%)
Colombia-0.54 (-1.0%)-0.96 (-1.8%)0.17 (0.2%)-2.43 (-3.0%)
Peru-0.60 (-0.9%)-1.37 (-2.0%)0.68 (0.9%)-2.10 (-2.7%)
Bolivia-0.90 (-2.2%)-1.84 (-4.6%)-1.67 (-2.6%)-3.75 (-6.0%)
Venezuela-0.15 (-0.4%)-0.33 (-0.9%)0.86 (1.5%)-1.14 (-2.0%)
Angola-0.03 (-1.2%)-0.09 (-3.8%)-1.37 (-2.8%)-1.51 (-3.1%)
Central African Republic-0.05 (-0.6%)-0.11 (-1.5%)0.15 (0.3%)-0.49 (-1.0%)
Papua New Guinea-0.19 (-0.6%)-0.55 (-1.7%)0.04 (0.1%)-1.05 (-2.4%)
Mexico-0.20 (-2.1%)-0.40 (-4.4%)-0.81 (-1.9%)-2.22 (-5.2%)
China-0.03 (-1.9%)-0.04 (-2.4%)-1.67 (-3.9%)-2.66 (-6.5%)
Myanmar-0.19 (-1.4%)-0.38 (-2.8%)-1.90 (-4.4%)-2.70 (-6.6%)
India-0.13 (-1.2%)-0.20 (-2.0%)-3.67 (-10.5%)-1.18 (-3.8%)
Cameroon-0.11 (-0.6%)-0.50 (-2.6%)-0.96 (-3.1%)-1.02 (-3.4%)
Republic of Congo-0.07 (-0.3%)-0.25 (-1.2%)0.28 (1.0%)-0.60 (-2.2%)
Argentina-0.19 (-4.4%)-0.21 (-5.0%)-3.31 (-10.7%)-2.69 (-9.8%)
Gabon-0.08 (-0.3%)-0.16 (-0.7%)0.02 (0.1%)-0.29 (-1.2%)
Malaysia-0.98 (-6.2%)-1.65 (-11.0%)-0.47 (-1.6%)-4.84 (-16.9%)
Mozambique0.00 (-1.6%)-0.01 (-7.5%)-1.60 (-6.0%)-1.95 (-7.8%)
Tanzania-0.01 (-0.9%)-0.02 (-2.8%)-1.21 (-5.5%)-1.31 (-6.3%)
Guyana-0.03 (-0.2%)-0.09 (-0.5%)0.07 (0.3%)-0.14 (-0.8%)
Ecuador-0.05 (-0.5%)-0.12 (-1.2%)0.20 (1.1%)-0.43 (-2.3%)
Thailand-0.07 (-1.2%)-0.05 (-0.9%)-0.75 (-3.8%)-1.31 (-6.9%)
Philippines-0.05 (-1.1%)-0.09 (-2.1%)-0.18 (-1.0%)-0.80 (-4.4%)
Paraguay-0.46 (-13.3%)-0.53 (-17.7%)-3.69 (-15.4%)-3.60 (-17.8%)
Zambia0.00 (-1.0%)-0.02 (-6.5%)-1.07 (-5.8%)-0.77 (-4.4%)
Laos-0.23 (-2.7%)-0.55 (-6.8%)-1.15 (-6.0%)-2.58 (-14.4%)
Suriname-0.02 (-0.2%)-0.10 (-0.8%)0.05 (0.4%)-0.14 (-1.0%)
Rest of the tropics-1.59 (-2.7%)-4.04 (-7.0%)-6.59 (-3.1%)-20.17 (-9.9%)
Grand Total-23.11 (-2.2%)-37.34 (-3.7%)-50.27 (-2.5%)-120.27 (-6.1%)

Chapter 2:


Rainforests are characterized by a unique vegetative structure consisting of several vertical layers including the overstory, canopy, understory, shrub layer, and ground level. The canopy refers to the dense ceiling of leaves and tree branches formed by closely spaced forest trees. The upper canopy is 100-130 feet above the forest floor, penetrated by scattered emergent trees, 130 feet or higher, that make up the level known as the overstory. Below the canopy ceiling are multiple leaf and branch levels known collectively as the understory. The lowest part of the understory, 5-20 feet (1.5-6 meters) above the floor, is known as the shrub layer, made up of shrubby plants and tree saplings.Chapter 3:


Tropical rainforests support the greatest diversity of living organisms on Earth. Although they cover less than 2 percent of Earth’s surface, rainforests house more than 50 percent of the plants and animals on the planet.There are several reasons why rainforests are so diverse. Some important factors are:

  • Climate: because rainforests are located in tropical regions, they receive a lot of sunlight. The sunlight is converted to energy by plants through the process of photosynthesis. Since there is a lot of sunlight, there is a lot of energy in the rainforest. This energy is stored in plant vegetation, which is eaten by animals. The abundance of energy supports an abundance of plant and animal species.
  • Canopy: the canopy structure of the rainforest provides an abundance of places for plants to grow and animals to live. The canopy offers sources of food, shelter, and hiding places, providing for interaction between different species. For example, there are plants in the canopy called bromeliads that store water in their leaves. Frogs and other animals use these pockets of water for hunting and laying their eggs.
  • Competition: while there is lots of energy in the rainforest system, life is not easy for most species that inhabit the biome. In fact, the rainforest is an intensively competitive place, with species developing incredible strategies and innovations to survive, encouraging specialization.

While species everywhere are known for utilizing symbiotic relationships with other species to survive, the biological phenomenon is particularly abundant in rainforests.Chapter 4:


In the rainforest most plant and animal life is not found on the forest floor, but in the leafy world known as the canopy. The canopy, which may be over 100 feet (30 m) above the ground, is made up of the overlapping branches and leaves of rainforest trees. Scientists estimate that more than half of life in the rainforest is found in the trees, making this the richest habitat for plant and animal life.

The conditions of the canopy are markedly different from the conditions of the forest floor. During the day, the canopy is drier and hotter than other parts of the forest, and the plants and animals that live there have adapted accordingly. For example, because the amount of leaves in the canopy can make it difficult to see more than a few feet, many canopy animals rely on loud calls or lyrical songs for communication. Gaps between trees mean that some canopy animals fly, glide, or jump to move about in the treetops. Meanwhile plants have evolved water-retention mechanisms like waxy leaves.

Scientists have long been interested in studying the canopy, but the height of trees made research difficult until recently. Today the canopy is commonly accessed using climbing gear, rope bridges, ladders, and towers. Researchers are even using model airplanes and quadcopters outfitted with special sensors — conservation drones — to study the canopy.h

Chapter 5:

The rainforest floor

The rainforest floor is often dark and humid due to constant shade from the leaves of canopy trees. The canopy not only blocks out sunlight, but dampens wind and rain, and limits shrub growth.

Despite its constant shade, the ground floor of the rainforest is the site for important interactions and complex relationships. The forest floor is one of the principal sites of decomposition, a process paramount for the continuance of the forest as a whole. It provides support for trees responsible for the formation of the canopy and is also home to some of the rainforest’s best-known species, including gorillas, tigers, tapirs, and elephants, among others.

Rainforest in Tangkoko National Park, North Sulawesi Province, Indonesia in 2017
Rainforest in Tangkoko National Park, North Sulawesi Province, Indonesia in 2017. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

Chapter 6:

Rainforest waters

Tropical rainforests support some of the largest rivers in the world, like the Amazon, Mekong, Negro, Orinoco, and Congo. These mega-rivers are fed by countless smaller tributaries, streams, and creeks. For example, the Amazon alone has some 1,100 tributaries, 17 of which are over 1,000 miles long. Although large tropical rivers are fairly uniform in appearance and water composition, their tributaries vary greatly.

Rainforest waters are home to a wealth of wildlife that is nearly as diverse as the biota on land. For example, more than 5,600 species of fish have been identified in the Amazon Basin alone.

But like rainforests, tropical ecosystems are also threatened. Dams, deforestation, channelization and dredging, pollution, mining, and overfishing are chief dangers.Chapter 7:

Rainforest people

Tropical rainforests have long been home to tribal peoples who rely on their surroundings for food, shelter, and medicines. Today very few forest people live in traditional ways; most have been displaced by outside settlers, have been forced to give up their lifestyles by governments, or have chosen to adopt outside customs.

Of the remaining forest people, the Amazon supports the largest number of Indigenous people living in traditional ways, although these people, too, have been impacted by the modern world. Nonetheless, Indigenous peoples’ knowledge of medicinal plants remains unmatched and they have a great understanding of the ecology of the Amazon rainforest.

In Africa there are native forest dwellers sometimes known as pygmies. The tallest of these people, also called the Mbuti, rarely exceed 5 feet in height. Their small size enables them to move about the forest more efficiently than taller people.

There are few forest peoples in Asia living in fully traditional ways. The last nomadic people in Borneo are thought to have settled in the late 2000’s. New Guinea and the Andaman Islands are generally viewed as the last frontiers for forest people in Asia and the Pacific.Chapter 8:


Every year an area of rainforest the size of New Jersey is cut down and destroyed, mostly the result of human activities. We are cutting down rainforests for many reasons, including:

  • wood for both timber and making fires;
  • agriculture for both small and large farms;
  • land for poor farmers who don’t have anywhere else to live;
  • grazing land for cattle (the single biggest driver of deforestation in the Amazon);
  • plantations, including wood-pulp for making paper, oil palm for making palm oil, and rubber;
  • road construction; and
  • extraction of minerals and energy.

In recent decades there has been an important shift in deforestation trends. Today export-driven industries are driving a bigger share of deforestation than ever before, marking a shift from previous decades, when most tropical deforestation was the product of poor farmers trying to put food on the table for their families. There are important implications from this change. While companies have a greater capacity to chop down forests than small farmers, they are more sensitive to pressure from environmentalists. Thus in recent years, it has become easier—and more ethical—for green groups to go after corporations than after poor farmers.

Rainforests are also threatened by climate change, which is contributing to droughts in parts of the Amazon and Southeast Asia. Drought causes die-offs of trees and dries out leaf litter, increasing the risk of forest fires, which are often set by land developers, ranchers, plantation owners, and loggers.

Chart showing tropical primary forest loss
Tropical primary forest cover and tree cover by country in 2020

Chapter 9:

Rainforest importance

While rainforests may seem like a distant concern, they are critically important for our well-being. Rainforests are often called the lungs of the planet for their role in absorbing carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, and producing oxygen, upon which all animals depend for survival. Rainforests also stabilize climate, house incredible amounts of plants and wildlife, and produce nourishing rainfall all around the planet.


  • Help stabilize the world’s climate: Rainforests help stabilize the world’s climate by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Scientists have shown that excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from human activities is contributing to climate change. Therefore, living rainforests have an important role in mitigating climate change, but when rainforests are chopped down and burned, the carbon stored in their wood and leaves is released into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.
  • Provide a home to many plants and animals: Rainforests are home to a large number of the world’s plant and animals species, including many endangered species. As forests are cut down, many species are doomed to extinction.
  • Help maintain the water cycle: The role of rainforests in the water cycle is to add water to the atmosphere through the process of transpiration (in which plants release water from their leaves during photosynthesis). This moisture contributes to the formation of rain clouds, which release the water back onto the rainforest. In the Amazon, 50-80 percent of moisture remains in the ecosystem’s water cycle. When forests are cut down, less moisture goes into the atmosphere and rainfall declines, sometimes leading to drought. Rainforests also have a role in global weather patterns. For example researchers have shown that forests in South America affect rainfall in the United States, while forests in Southeast Asia influence rain patterns in southeastern Europe and China. Distant rainforests are therefore important to farmers everywhere.
  • Protect against flood, drought, and erosion: Rainforests have been compared to natural sponges, moderating flood and drought cycles by slowing run-off and contributing moisture to the local atmosphere. Rainforests are also important in reducing soil erosion by anchoring the ground with their roots. When trees are cut down there is no longer anything to protect the ground, and soils are quickly washed away with rain. On steep hillsides, loss of forest can trigger landslides.
  • Are a source for medicines and foods and support forest-dependent people: People have long used forests as a source of food, wood, medicine, and recreation. When forests are lost, they can no longer provide these resources. Instead people must find other places to get these goods and services. They also must find ways to pay for the things they once got for free from the forest.

Chapter 10:

Rainforest conservation

Rainforests are disappearing very quickly. The good news is there are a lot of people who want to save rainforests. The bad news is that saving rainforests will be a challenge as it means humanity will need to shift away from business-as-usual practices by developing new policies and economic measures to creative incentives for preserving forests as healthy and productive ecosystems.

Over the past decade there has been considerable progress on several conservation fronts. Policymakers and companies are increasingly valuing rainforests for the services they afford, setting aside large blocks of forests in protected areas and setting up new financial mechanisms that compensate communities, state and local governments, and countries for conserving forests. Meanwhile, forest-dependent people are gaining more management control over the forests they have long stewarded. Large international companies are finally establishing policies that exclude materials sourced via deforestation. People are abandoning rural areas, leading to forest recovery in some planes.

But the battle is far from over. Growing population and consumption means that rainforests will continue to face intense pressures. At the same time, climate change threatens to dramatically alter temperatures and precipitation patterns, potentially pushing some forests toward critical tipping points.

Thus the future of the world’s rainforests in very much in our hands. The actions we take in the next 20 years will determine whether rainforests, as we currently know them, are around to sustain and nourish future generations of people and wildlife.

The Latest News on Rainforests

UNESCO reiterates road project’s dangers to Papua park as Indonesia doubles down (09 Nov 2021 15:12:58 +0000)
– UNESCO has renewed its call for Indonesia to close the Trans-Papua road that runs through a national park in the easternmost region of Papua, citing environmental concerns.
– The call comes after the environment minister said UNESCO’s request is not realistic and thus the road can’t be closed since it connects multiple districts in the region.
– The government also says the road construction doesn’t violate any law, but UNESCO says the concern is on the environmental impact of the road, not on whether the project is legal or not.
– Activists in the region say the road is also meant to serve extractive industries in the park, including logging and mining.

For forest communities in Sumatra, loss of nature means loss of culture (09 Nov 2021 11:20:00 +0000)
– Environmental damage in the Ogan Komering Ilir region of South Sumatra is driving social shifts and threatening Indigenous cultural traditions.
– During the Panggung Kecil Festival in Palembang, the capital of South Sumatra, musicians Fikri M.S. and Silo Siswanto showcased new work exploring the cultural impact of environmental destruction.
– The musical tradition of tembangan in Silo’s home region risks being lost, but similar genres continue to flourish among Indigenous communities living in intact rainforests.

New restoration “Playbook” calls for political, economic, and social change (08 Nov 2021 18:19:10 +0000)
– Leading forest and climate experts have come up with a “playbook” for ecosystem restoration that accounts for climate change and forest loss as not just biophysical and environmental problems, but also deeply political, economic and social issues.
– It defines 10 principles for effective, equitable, and transformative landscapes that its authors say could be game-changing if followed.
– The playbook discusses the importance of ending fossil fuel subsidies and shifting those resources toward ecosystem restoration, renewable energy, and supporting the land rights of local and Indigenous communities that are protecting forests.
– The authors invite IUCN members and leaders at COP26 in Glasgow to consider adopting the Playbook to guide biodiversity conservation, and climate change mitigation in forests and, more broadly, call for structural changes from local to international scale.

Relying on green labels to address our thirst for the products of deforestation would be a disaster (commentary) (08 Nov 2021 17:21:26 +0000)
– Fresh promises on forests at COP26 will be meaningless unless they are coupled with real action. A key test will come shortly after the conference concludes.
– Deforestation and associated human rights abuses are driven by overseas demand for agri-commodities like palm oil, soy and beef. They won’t be stopped until that demand is stopped. New draft EU legislation – expected to be released next week – could cut off one of the biggest sources of that demand.
– However, while decision-makers debate the finer points of the law, such as the commodities it will cover, none of these will matter if they do not address a wider problem: the flawed ‘independent certification’ schemes it looks likely to end up relying on, whether they are given a formal ‘green lane’ or not.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

FARC peace deal in Colombia sparked war on forests, report says (08 Nov 2021 16:22:50 +0000)
– The Colombian government’s 2016 peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was supposed to correct land ownership inequality and tackle deforestation goal.
– However, dissident guerrilla groups have filled the power gap left by the FARC, making it increasingly difficult to carry out some of the peace deal’s most basic initiatives.
– In a new report, international peacekeeping organization Crisis Group recommends that the Colombian government increase its efforts to dismantle non-state armed groups and find better ways to help internally displaced families.

Indonesia’s leader touts green goals at COP26, but overlooks green stewards at home (08 Nov 2021 14:28:44 +0000)
– Indigenous rights advocates have lambasted Indonesian President Joko Widodo for failing to acknowledge Indigenous peoples and their role in protecting forests during his speech to other world leaders at the COP26 climate summit.
– They say this omission is emblematic of the government’s neglect of Indigenous Indonesians, who number an estimated 70 million and continue to lose their ancestral lands to extractive and infrastructure projects throughout the country.
– Advocates note that conflicts over Indigenous lands have increased under Widodo, and look likely to escalate under pro-business legislation championed by the administration.
– They also say this reality on the ground belies Widodo’s public stance at COP26, where he signed on to a pledge to end deforestation by 2030, which includes supporting Indigenous communities in their role as forest stewards.

What countries are leaders in reducing deforestation? Which are not? (05 Nov 2021 20:03:20 +0000)
– On Tuesday, 127 countries signed the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use, pledging to “halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation” by 2030. The declaration was endorsed outside the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process and is therefore legally non-binding.
– The 127 signatories account for about 90% of global tree cover and 85% of the world’s primary tropical forests. The Glasgow Declaration thus represents a much larger constituency than the 39 countries which signed the New York Declaration on Forests in 2014. That latter effort failed badly in its ambition to halve deforestation by 2020 — forest loss rose substantially in signatories’ territories.
– Given the extent to which the New York Declaration missed its near-term numeric target on a national level basis, it’s worth breaking down the aggregate data to look at countries on an individual basis to see where forest loss declined and increased.
– Indonesia experienced the biggest decline in primary tropical forest loss, while Brazil saw its primary forest loss more than double from 4.65 million ha to 9.4 million ha. Canada experienced the biggest decline in the extent of tree cover loss, while Brazil also led the world in terms of increase in tree cover loss.

Stretch of Borneo’s Mahakam River eyed for protection to save Irrawaddy dolphins (05 Nov 2021 14:49:20 +0000)
– Conservationists in Indonesian Borneo are working to establish a protected area along the Mahakam River to save the remaining population of the nearly extinct Irrawaddy dolphin.
– The proposed conservation area is expected to alleviate the threats to the population of the freshwater dolphins, including river degradation and ship traffic.
– The latest population estimates suggest only around 80 of the endangered dolphins remain in the Mahakam.

Indonesia’s flip-flop on zero-deforestation pledge portends greater forest loss (05 Nov 2021 13:51:55 +0000)
– Indonesia says it never actually agreed to end deforestation by 2030 when signing up to a global pledge to halt and reverse forest loss at the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow.
– The country’s forestry minister, Siti Nurbaya Bakar, says the pledge is unfair if it means that the country has to stop clearing its forests, since it still has to develop its economy to improve the welfare of its people.
– She says the government must not stop developing “in the name of carbon emissions, or in the name of deforestation.”
– Environmentalists say this indicates Indonesia has no intention of respecting the pledge; and in light of recent weakening of environmental safeguards, the country might see deforestation continue well into the future.

Behind grand declarations at COP26, a long track record of failure (05 Nov 2021 08:27:59 +0000)
– On Nov. 2, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson released the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use, with more than 100 countries promising to “halt and reverse forest loss” by 2030.
– The declaration includes signatories like Brazil, Indonesia and China, but advocates warn the near-total failure of 2014’s similar New York Declaration on Forests should throw cold water over premature celebrations.
– Heavyweights of finance and commodity production also pledged to protect forests and move toward net-zero emissions at COP26 this week, but similar pledges made over the past decade have had little impact.

Indigenous lands under siege as buffalo frenzy grips the Amazon (05 Nov 2021 00:34:18 +0000)
– Deforestation is rising in Autazes, a municipality in the Brazilian state of Amazonas, according to satellite data and local sources.
– Indigenous leaders say the clearing is now encroaching on the 18 Indigenous reserves that lie scattered across Autazes, some of which are still awaiting full demarcation.
– Most of the razed lots are being turned into grazing pastures for herds of domestic water buffalos, which thrive in the floodplains that characterize the region.
– Indigenous community members say that in addition to clearing forest for pasture, buffalo farming is polluting their water sources and roaming buffalos are invading communities’ subsistence farms.

Ecuador’s consultation process for Indigenous lands comes under the microscope (04 Nov 2021 09:48:22 +0000)
– Ecuador’s Constitutional Court has selected two previous legal cases, involving the Cofan (2018) and Waorani (2019) Indigenous groups, as a basis to analyze the country’s process of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and how well it adheres to the rights in the constitution.
– Judges ruled in favor of both the Cofan and Waorani in their lawsuits against the state, both of whom sued three government bodies for selling, or trying to sell, their land to oil and mining companies without properly consulting the communities.
– This review, of which the first hearing will be held in Indigenous territory for the first time in Ecuador’s history, could set new standards for FPIC in the country and grant Indigenous communities more autonomy over their land.
– The new conservative government of President Guillermo Lasso has already passed two decrees to double oil drilling and mining in the country to boost its economy, without consulting with communities who live in the regions where these projects will likely be developed.

Infrastructure projects in Congo Basin need greater oversight, report says (04 Nov 2021 09:35:58 +0000)
– A new report by Rainforest Foundation UK says that new transport and energy infrastructure projects in the Congo Basin do not adequately account for their full environmental and social impact and may lead to irreversible degradation of this vital forest region.
– RFUK is calling for regional governments and international lenders to take a more robust and transparent approach to managing the environmental impacts of infrastructure projects to ensure that needed development takes place in a sustainable way.
– The report says infrastructure projects often conflict with the goals of REDD+ projects, and their negative impacts are not properly accounted for.
– Denis Sonwa from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), who is unaffiliated with the RFUK report, says the REDD+ schemes add weight and legitimacy to the forest sector in negotiations over infrastructure projects.

Do forest declarations work? How do the Glasgow and New York declarations compare? (04 Nov 2021 05:03:47 +0000)
– On November 2, 2021 at COP26 in Scotland, 127 countries signed the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use, which aims to end net forest loss by 2030. Those signatories account for about 90% of global tree cover and about 85% of the world’s primary tropical forests.
– The declaration came seven years after the New York Declaration on Forests, under which 39 countries pledged to halve natural forest loss by 2020 and end it by 2030. Those countries accounted for about 39% of both global tree cover and primary tropical forests.
– While the New York Declaration on Forests catalyzed global awareness for the importance of forests and the need to address deforestation, it missed the mark by a wide margin in terms of achieving its 2020 goal to reduce natural forest loss by 50%.
– The biggest new signatories are Russia (ranked #1 globally in terms of tree cover), Brazil (#2, thanks to the Amazon rainforest), and China (#6) which together account for 1.4 billion hectares of tree cover. Among tropical nations, after Brazil, the biggest new additions are Papua New Guinea (32 million hectares of primary tropical forest), Gabon (23 million hectares), and the Republic of the Congo (21 million hectares).

COP26 deforestation-ending commitment must hold leaders accountable (commentary) (03 Nov 2021 18:04:07 +0000)
– Yesterday at COP26 world leaders announced an agreement to reverse and end deforestation within a decade.
– But lacking language on transparency, regular milestones, a binding legal framework, and a focus on human rights, this commitment may fail as others have before it.
– The New York Declaration on Forests of 2014 pledged to halve deforestation by 2020 and end it by 2030, yet rates of forest loss have been 41% higher in the years since. If world leaders are sincere about ending deforestation this time, there is one simple message: prove it.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


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