More bad news on the deforestation front (see yesterday's piece about Japan's collapsing beech forests): According to a new report, Papua New Guinea is at risk of losing more than half of its rainforests by 2021 because of commercial logging, subsistence agriculture and poor conservation efforts. The team of researchers from Australian National University and the University of Papua New Guinea crunched 30 years' worth of data (1972 - 2002) from satellite images to reach this conclusion -- estimating that the country's forests were being razed at a rate of 3,620 sq km in 2001 alone.
Worse, they found that trees in protected areas were being cut down at the same rates as those in unprotected areas. Though small -- Papua New Guinea accounts for <0.5% of the planet's land cover -- the island country is "one of the most forested nations on the planet," according to lead author Phil Shearman. It also contains 6-7% of Earth's species.Julian Ash, a co-author, told the BBC that commercial logging operations, which are depleting the country's forests at an annual rate of 2.6%, result in 22 million tons of carbon being emitted every year. Papua New Guinea's government had taken a lax approach to regulating the activities of multinational timber companies, leading to a virtual free-for-all that has decimated its natural resources.
Belatedly recognizing the errors of its ways, the government has now pledged to back Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), an initiative introduced at last year's Bali summit that lets developing countries with large forested areas get paid by developed countries not to chop them down.
Convincing the developed world that it has had a change of heart is another matter. Not only that, but if timber companies are allowed to indiscriminately cut down all the accessible forests, all that will be left will be (you guessed it) the physically inaccessible ones -- which (it goes without saying) wouldn't have been logged anyway.
And, as Ash cautions: "It takes centuries, not decades, for rainforests to recover from such changes."
Via ::BBC News: Images reveal 'rapid forest loss' (news website)