Saturday, November 16, 2013

Malaysia has the world's highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest map

Malaysia had the world's highest rate of forest loss between 2000 and 2012, according to a new global forest map developed in partnership with Google. 

Malaysia's total forest loss during the period amounted to 14.4 percent of its year 2000 forest cover. The loss translates to 47,278 square kilometers (18,244 square miles), an area larger than Denmark. Malaysia's forest loss was partly offset by a 25,978 sq km gain in vegetation cover resulting from natural recovery, reforestation, and establishment of industrial timber and oil palm plantations. During the period, Malaysia's oil palm estate grew by roughly 50 percent or 17,000 sq km. But tree plantations don't stack up well to natural forests into terms of biodiversity, carbon storage, or maintenance of ecosystem services, indicating that Malaysia suffered very extensive decline of its natural capital base. Most of Malaysia's forest loss occurred in its densest forests, those with tree cover exceeding 50 percent, which generally store the most carbon and are richest with wildlife, including endangered orangutans, pygmy elephants, Sumatran rhinos, and clouded leopards.

Dan Zarin, program director of the Climate and Land Use Alliance, an association of philanthropic foundations, says trading natural forests for planted forests represents a net loss for the planet. “You can't ‘net out’ deforestation by planting trees," said Zarin, "because newly planted forests are far less valuable for carbon, biodiversity and forest-dependent people than standing native forests.” Malaysia's rate of forest loss during the period was nearly 50 percent higher than the next runner up, Paraguay (9.6 percent). Its area of forest loss ranked ninth after Russia, Brazil, the United States, Canada, Indonesia, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Australia. Malaysia's net forest loss — 21,480 sq km — ranked 12th globally.

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