10 Countries With the Highest Deforestation Rates in the World


Logging operation in the Niger River delta, photo: Terry Whalebone via flickr.

Hopefully it comes as no great surprise to you that deforestation is a major problem in many areas of the world, both it terms of preserving biodiversity and preventing climate change -- some countries are chopping down their forests at astonishing rates. But what you may not know is which nations really have the highest rates of deforestation, so here they are:When considering all these, for sake of comparison, even though Brazil gets a lot of the heat for Amazonian deforestation -- and rightly so, considering the total area of land cleared -- as a percentage of landmass cleared it isn't even in the the top twenty. Over the past twenty years or so the deforestation rate has been 8% and over 70% of historic forest cover remains.

NOTE: All the data in this post has been derived from the truly informative and well presented Google Earth layer on deforestation, created by David Tryse, which draws its data from the World Resources Institute and Greenpeace. All percentages refer to the years 1990-2005.

1) Honduras: -37%
Historically Honduras was pretty much entirely covered by trees, with half a percent of the land not forested. Today about half of that remains (52%), with just about 16% existing in a frontier forest state. Between 1990-2005, Honduras saw a decline of 37% in its forest cover.

2) Nigeria: -36%
About half the land in Nigeria used to be covered in trees. Today all but about 10% of those have been chopped down, and less than one percent exist as frontier forest. Nigeria has removed 36% of its trees in the past two decades.

3) The Philippines: -32%
The islands that make up the Philippines used to be all forested. Today only 35% of those forests remain; the only (slightly) good news in that is about 28% remain as frontier forest. But with a deforestation rate over the past twenty or so years of 26%, the future isn't so bright.


Deforestation in the Philippines, photo: Trees for the Future
4) Benin: -31%
Benin didn't start out with great amounts of forest cover -- only about 16% of the land used to be forested -- and a high deforestation rate of 31% doesn't help preserve what remains. Less than 4% of those original forests remain, and none in a frontier forest state.

5) Ghana: -28%
At one point about two-thirds of Ghana was covered with forest; now, less than 10% of that forest cover remains and none as frontier forest. At a rate of decline since 1990 of 28%, that remaining forest doesn't stand a chance without better forestry practices.

6) Indonesia: -26%
Indonesia is a strange case. Like much of Southeast Asia it was historically entirely covered in forest, and over the whole nation some 65% of that forest cover remains, with about 29% in a frontier forest condition. But it's seen a serious decline in that forest cover over the past two decades which doesn't show signs of letting up.

It's also an amazingly large country, and there are local conditions that get minimized in the stats. For example, on Borneo (the world's third largest island) between 1985-2000 more logs were felled than in all of South America and Africa combined. Half of the lowland forest is currently gone and that could increase to two-thirds in just ten years.

7) Nepal & North Korea: -25%
Nepal has about 22% of its original forest cover remaining, non of which is considered frontier forest -- the past two decades saw a 25% decline in forest cover.

At one point nearly all of North Korea was forested, but today about 61% of that has been cleared -- the change in forest cover since 1990 has been a decline of about 25%.


Severe land degradation resulting for deforestation in Haiti, photo: Trees for the Future via flickr
9) Ecuador & Haiti: -22%
Rounding out the bottom of the top, as it were, are Ecuador, Liberia, and Haiti, all of which have witnessed 22% declines in forest cover since 1990.

Ecuador was originally largely forested, but today has about two-thirds of that forest cover remaining. The comparatively good news is that about 37% of that is frontier forest.

The bad news about Haiti is that it has had a 22% decline in forest cover in the past twenty years. The even worse news is that Haiti has already cleared all but a fraction of a percent of it's original forest, 99.2% to be exact. Here's the symbol par excellence of what happens when you have horrendous forestry practice.

More on Deforestation
Stopping Deforestation, Greening Agriculture Better Than Carbon Capture & Storage, UNEP Report Says
Brazil Announces Plan to Slow Amazon Deforestation by 70%
Carbon Emissions From Amazon Deforestation Increase as Older Forest Cleared
Tropical Deforestation Brings Economic Boom, Followed by Human & Ecological Bust

Tags: Carbon Emissions | Conservation | Deforestation | Developing Nations

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