Primary, or “old growth” forest, is of particular value as it stores more carbon than other forests and is irreplaceable in terms of providing habitat to fauna and flora.
The world is not on track to meet targets set by government and business to eliminate deforestation by 2020, according to research by the University of Maryland and released on Global Forest Watch.
The data shows that deforestation has shifted geographically since the beginning of the century, when Brazil and Indonesia accounted for 71% of tropical primary forest loss.
These countries now contribute around 46% of deforestation loss, while that from countries including Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and the Democratic Republic of the Congo rose considerably, the data shows.
Primary, or “old growth” forest, is of particular value as it stores more carbon than other forests and is irreplaceable in terms of providing habitat to fauna and flora – with species living in such environments including orangutans and jaguars.
However, Indonesia massively reduced primary forest loss, with the rate of deforestation falling to its lowest rate since 2003, and 40% lower in 2018 than in the average annual rate of loss from 2002 to 2016.
The country’s government has protected some environments from development, a policy which seems to be working, the researchers noted. For example, in peatlands deeper than three meters, forest loss fell by 80%.
This has led to financial benefits for the country - in February, the Norwegian government announced that it would compensate Indonesia for reducing its deforestation-related emissions as part of a climate and forest partnership between the two countries.
Catherine Early is a freelance environmental journalist and chief reporter for the Ecologist. She can be found tweeting at @Cat_Early76.