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.

From 2000 to 2013, the global IFL area decreased by 7.2%, a reduction of 919 thousand km2. Most of the IFL loss (60%) 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. The highest relative IFL area loss was found in Romania, Paraguay, Laos, Equatorial Guinea, Cambodia, and Nicaragua. An increasing rate of IFL area reduction globally was found, largely driven by a tripling of IFL tropical forest loss in 2011-13 compared to 2001-03, with the highest increase observed in Central Africa. Assuming the loss of IFLs continues at the current rate, Paraguay, Laos, Cambodia, and Equatorial Guinea will lose their entire IFL area during the next 20 years. Another 15 countries will lose all IFLs within a 60-year period, including such IFL-rich nations as the Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Cameroon, Bolivia, and Myanmar.

The leading IFL fragmentation and alteration agents are timber harvesting (37% of 2000-2013 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. Uganda, the Dominican Republic, Thailand, and Cuba had protected more than 90% of their IFL area. Some countries do not include any IFLs within category I-III PAs, including many Southeast Asian countries (Lao PDR, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Philippines), Papua New Guinea, Ethiopia, Angola, and Nicaragua. 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. 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 full 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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The last frontiers of wilderness: tracking loss of Intact Forest Landscapes from 2000 to 2013

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