28 Apr 2015


Eastern Australia has been listed in a new report as a global front for deforestation.

WWF International’s Living Forests Report: Saving Forests at Risk, launched today, lists eastern Australia as one of 11 places around the world that will account for 80 per cent of global forest loss by 2030.

Eastern Australia joins other deforestation fronts in the Amazon, the Atlantic Forest and Gran Chaco, Borneo, the Cerrado, Choco-Darien, the Congo Basin, East Africa, Greater Mekong, New Guinea and Sumatra.

About 70 per cent of the Forests of Eastern Australia global biodiversity hotspot – made up of temperate forests and rainforests in New South Wales and Queensland – have been cleared or disturbed, while only 18 per cent is protected.

The report warns that a weakening of laws to control deforestation in New South Wales and Queensland could bring a resurgence of large-scale forest clearing, mainly for livestock.

WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman said the report puts Australia right up there with the worst places for deforestation in the world.

“If business as usual continues, we will see more Australian species disappear as well as the continuing decline of our water, topsoil and local and regional climate,” Mr O’Gorman said.

While the Queensland Government has made a positive commitment to re-introduce bushland protections, the New South Wales Government – which has elsewhere ‘committed to enhancing the State’s biodiversity for the benefit of current and future generations’1 – is repealing clearing protections which could re-ignite the single biggest threat to native species in that state.

Globally, the report shows that current deforestation rates could see the equivalent of a forest almost the size of Queensland (170 million hectares) wiped out in just 20 years.

It shows that Borneo - which is divided among Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei – has lost 30% of its forests in the last four decades, with conversion for oil palm plantations the largest driver of deforestation. Current deforestation rates will see up to 21.5 million hectares of Borneo’s forest lost by 2020.

Mr O’Gorman praised the release last year of the Australian Government’s draft Asia-Pacific Rainforest Recovery Plan, which aims to provide a regional commitment to reduce rainforest loss in places like Borneo.

“Today’s report highlights the urgency of finalising plans such as the Asia-Pacific Rainforest Recovery Plan, and for strong enforcement of Australia’s Illegal Logging Prohibition Act, which came into force in late 2014,” he said.

“But we also need to tackle deforestation in our own backyard. With better planning, management and collaboration at a landscape scale, we can sustainably increase production and meet local development needs, while conserving critical ecosystems.”

The report recommends a range of solutions for stopping the march of deforestation at each of the 11 global fronts. These include:

  • Promoting sustainable forest management practices that provide an economic alternative to forest conversion;
  • Establishing expanded, strengthened and well-connected networks of protected areas;
  • Removing unsustainably produced agriculture and forestry products from global supply chains;
  • Strengthening and clarifying land use rights; and
  • Establishing mechanisms that place greater value on ecosystem services like water quality, soil stabilisation, erosion control and climate change mitigation. 

WWF-Australia Media Contact:

Charlie Stevens, Senior Communications Officer

Editor’s notes:

The Living Forests Report aims to catalyse debate on the future role and value of forests in a world where humanity is living within the Earth’s ecological limits and sharing its resources equitably. The Living Forests Model, which WWF developed with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, forms the basis for the Living Forests Report: https://explore.panda.org/forests

  1. NSW Farming: Investing Locally, Connecting Globally – Memorandum of Understanding. 25 March 2015.