World's Intact Forest Landscapes, 2000-2013

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Key Findings

Intact Forest Landscapes (IFL) in year 2000 covered 12.8 million km2, or 9.8% of the Earth’s ice-free land area. The vast majority of IFLs are found in two biomes: Tropical (48% of total global IFL area) and Boreal (36%) forests. The lowest proportion of IFL is found in Temperate forests. IFLs were found within 65 countries in the year 2000. Three countries (Russia, Brazil, and Canada) account for nearly two-thirds of the global IFL area. Most the IFL area (82%) is covered with forest. The rest is covered with intact treeless ecosystems and a small fraction of non-vegetated areas.

The global IFL area as of 01/01/2017 totaled 11.61 million km2, a 2.3% reduction from the year 2013, and a 9.3% reduction from the year 2000. The average annual IFL area reduction for the 2000-2016 interval was 75 thousand km2 per year, which corresponds to 205 km2 IFL area loss per day.

Most of the IFL loss were found in the tropical areas that has the highest biodiversity and carbon storage density. In the absolute terms, Russia, Brazil, and Canada share the largest area of the IFL loss. All three countries showed an increase in the annual IFL area reduction from 2000-2013 to 2013-2016 interval. Brazil and Canada increased the annual IFL reduction area by 16 and 9%, respectively, while Russia nearly doubled its annual IFL area reduction. Since the year 2000, several countries lost at least half of their IFL area, including Romania, Paraguay, Solomon Islands, Laos, and Equatorial Guinea. Countries that lost at least one-third of the IFL area since the year 2000 include Central African Republic, Nicaragua, Myanmar, Cambodia, Angola, Australia, Cameroon, and Liberia.

Assuming the loss of IFLs continues at the current rate, 30 nations will lose all their IFLs in the next 100 years. Paraguay, Solomon Islands, Laos, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, Nicaragua, Myanmar, Cambodia, Angola, Australia, Cameroon, and Liberia may lose all their IFLs by the year 2050. Even some countries with the globally important share of IFL area, including Republic of Congo, Bolivia, and Gabon may lose IFLs by 2060-2070.

The leading IFL fragmentation and alteration agents for the 2000-013 interval were timber harvesting (37% of global IFL area reduction), agricultural expansion (28%), and wildfire spread from infrastructure and logging sites (21%). Other causes included fragmentation by roads for mining and oil/gas extraction, pipelines, and power lines (12%) and expansion of the transportation road network (2%). Fragmentation of IFLs by logging and establishment of roads and other infrastructure initiates a cascade of changes that lead to landscape transformation and loss of conservation values. Of the total IFL area reduction, 14% was due to direct alteration caused by logging, clearing, and fires. The remaining 86% was due to fragmentation by such disturbances and construction of infrastructure.

Of the total IFL area in the year 2000, 12.4% fell within protected areas with a management regime consistent with International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) categories I-III. Australia and temperate South America have the largest proportion of IFLs under legal protection, while temperate and boreal Eurasia and boreal North America have the lowest. Forty out of the 65 countries in which IFLs were present in the year 2000 had at least 10% of the IFL area under legal protection. Protected areas were found to have a positive effect in slowing reduction of IFL area from timber harvesting, but were less effective in limiting agriculture expansion. Of the total IFL reduction area for the 2000-2016 interval, 5.7% affected IFLs within Category I-III protected areas, and more than 17% IFLs within all types of protected areas. The certification of logging concessions under responsible management to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standard had a negligible impact on slowing IFL fragmentation in the Congo Basin.

Read 2000-2013 IFL area change report:

Potapov, P., Hansen, M. C., Laestadius L., Turubanova S., Yaroshenko A., Thies C., Smith W., Zhuravleva I., Komarova A., Minnemeyer S., Esipova E. 2016.
The last frontiers of wilderness: Tracking loss of intact forest landscapes from 2000 to 2013.   Science Advances, 2017; 3:e1600821

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IFL 2000-2013-2016 monitoring results are available for download

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