Indonesia reaches highest deforestation rate in the world

BY Xander Landen  July 6, 2014 at 4:55 PM EST
Rainforest clearing for slash and burn agriculture, central Sulawesi, Indonesia

Rainforest clearing for slash and burn agriculture in central Sulawesi, Indonesia. The country has the highest deforestation rate in the world, according to a study published in “Nature Climate Change” in June. Credit: Kevin Schafer via Getty Images

Indonesia has the highest deforestation rate in the world, according to a study published in the journal “Nature Climate Change” in June.

Researchers at the University of Maryland said the country lost 15 million acres of forest — a common source of lumber for developers — between 2000 and 2012.

The study also found that the country’s recent rate of forest loss is twice as devastating as the government claimed.

According to the conservation news journal Monga Bay, Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the country’s 2011 temporary ban on deforestation, or “forest moratorium,” was a success. Yudhoyono said the ban required developers to get permits and protected “more than 63 million hectares of primary forests and peat lands.”

Since 2000, increased deforestation has made the country’s lowland forests scarcer and has lead developers to look elsewhere in the country.

In an interview with Scientific American, Glenn Hurowitz, a managing director at Climate Advisers, said developers are moving into Indonesia’s wetlands, including the country’s peatland rainforests.

“Tropical rainforests are one of the world’s richest carbon sinks, and peatlands are many times more powerful carbon sinks,” he said. “It’s the height of insanity, desperation or greed to destroy a peatland rainforest.”

Indonesia’s carbon emissions are projected to get even higher this year, as El Niño, expected to hit in 2014, will make forests dry and susceptible to fires. This could steer the country away from its pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2020.

According to the World Resources Institute, fires in Indonesia’s forests and peat lands increased in March and were concentrated in areas managed by pulpwood, palm oil and logging companies.