24 Mar 2023


New research, published as a preprint, estimates that 29 million hectares of the forests and woodlands that existed in New South Wales pre-1750 have been destroyed. That equates to the loss of 54% of the state’s original forest – an area about the size of New Zealand.

The figure updates and is larger than previous estimates because it includes deforestation up to 2021.

Lead author Dr Michelle Ward, a conservation scientist with the World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia, said the impact of continued logging in NSW must be considered in the context of this enormous loss of forest.

From January 2000 to August 2022, logging occurred across 435,000 hectares of NSW.

“Logging advocates often claim logging has minimal impacts, but this does not take into account the amount of habitat already destroyed or degraded,” Dr Ward said.

“As our study shows, when this factor is considered, most threatened species can ill afford to have what remains of their forest homes further degraded by continued logging. Australia is experiencing an extinction crisis,” she said.

Of the 25 million hectares of forest and woodland that remains in NSW, 9 million hectares is degraded. Only 16 million hectares (30% of pre-European colonisation forest and woodland) is intact.

There are 244 threatened species, already affected by historical deforestation and degradation, that continue to have their habitat logged in NSW.

Of these 244, 25 are listed as Critically Endangered, 79 as Endangered, and 140 as Vulnerable. Seventy threatened species impacted by continued logging, now have 50%, or less, of their habitat remaining.

This includes the mountain skink, regent parrot, superb parrot, Bell’s turtle, grey snake and the alpine tree frog.

Two species, the Sloane's froglet and Mueller daisy now have less than 10% of their NSW forest and woodland habitat remaining.

Co-author James Watson, a Professor of Conservation Science at The University of Queensland, said: "This study shows the importance of putting logging impacts into perspective. Almost all the forest-dependent species we assessed have suffered terribly from land clearing and fires." “They now remain in small parts of their natural range and for this habitat to be opened up to logging is forcing many of them into an extinction vortex." “The choice is simple: lock in extinction by continuing rampant logging or lock in species recovery by working with land managers to do the actions needed to secure these species,” Professor Watson said. Species with the largest area of remaining NSW habitat that overlaps with logging include the koala (400,000 hectares) and the south-eastern glossy black cockatoo (370,000 hectares). The species with the highest proportion of remaining NSW habitat overlapping with logging include the long-footed potoroo (14%), long-nosed potoroo (12%), and the southern brown bandicoot (9%).

WWF is calling for Australia to become a world leader in reforestation and move away from native forest logging to plantations. To help protect and restore the forest homes of vulnerable wildlife visit https://wwf.org.au/donate/protect-wildlife-homes/

Map of deforested areas of NSW
Map of deforested areas of NSW © WWF Australia

Map of 2000 – 2022 logged areas in NSW represented in dark blue with dark blue border for increased visibility at this scale. From 1750-2021, cleared forests and woodlands is represented in yellow, while remaining degraded native forests and woodlands is represented in green. Remaining intact native forests and woodlands is represented as teal.

Authorised by Rachel Lowry, Chief Conservation Officer, WWF-Australia, Level 9, 276 Flinders St, Melbourne VIC 3000