The 2015 WWF Saving Forests at Risk report has decidedly stated that Eastern Australia is a global front for deforestation. Australia is now one of the world’s 11 deforestation hotspots that together will account for 80% of global forest loss by 2030.
Based on the current trends, between 3 million hectares and 6 million hectares of rainforest and temperate forest, mainly stretching across New South Wales and Queensland, will be lost between 2010 and 2030. Approximately, 70% of the eastern forests of Australia have already been cleared or disturbed, with just 18% of the area under any sort of protection, the WWF report states.
Australia is a massive concern. Green are forested areas while pinks and multicoloured are deforestation fronts.
Australia is a Global Front for Deforestation — But Why?
Australia’s forestry loss has primarily been caused by land clearing for farmed animals, in both the meat and dairy industries, and is responsible for 88% of the clearing of forest and woodlands.
This deforestation is part of a much wider, global deforestation pandemic in 11 key areas, including the Amazon rainforest, Borneo, Sumatra, the Congo Basin and East Africa. The most common pressures causing deforestation and severe forest degradation in all of these areas are: farmed animals; large agriculture (most of which supports directly feeding farmed animals); small-scale agriculture; unsustainable logging; mining; infrastructure projects; and increased fire incidence and intensity.
These places are where the bulk of global deforestation is projected to take take place over the two decades, from 2010 to 2030, under business-as-usual scenarios and without interventions to prevent losses.
Australia is the only place on Earth where all 3 major divisions of mammals are present: the egglaying monotremes (platypus and echidna); the marsupials; and the placental mammals. At least 130,000 species of native animals and plants, nearly 8% of all life on Earth, are found in Australia.
Of the 1,250 plant and 390 animal species listed as threatened by the Australian government (excluding extinct and marine species), 964 plant species (77%) and 286 animal species (73%) have deforestation, and the resulting fragmentation or degradation of their habitats, listed as threats.
Koalas were recently listed vulnerable to extinction due to deforestation in Australia.
WWF advised that the diluted environmental protections by the previous Liberal government in Queensland led to a sharp rise in land clearing, with 275,000 ha torn down in the past financial year—a tripling of vegetation loss rates since 2010. While the new Labor state government has promised to reverse this loss, the New South Wales government is set to amend land-clearing protections, despite pledging $100m to protect the state’s threatened plants and animals.
The report warns that a weakening of laws to control deforestation in NSW and Queensland could bring a resurgence of large-scale forest clearing, mainly for farmed animals.
Maintaining forest protections is vital at state level. We’ve lost the large majority of the eastern Australian forest, which means the remaining forests are even more important to maintain. If business as usual continues, we will see more Australian species disappear, as well as the continuing decline of our water, topsoil and local and regional climate.
Dermot O’Gorman, chief executive of WWF Australia.
What Can Government and Industry Do?
Australia is a global front for deforestation and it must be taken seriously at all levels. The report recommends a range of solutions for stopping the march of deforestation at each of the 11 global fronts. These include:
- Removing unsustainably produced agriculture and forestry products from global supply chains;
- Promoting sustainable forest management practices that provide an economic alternative to forest conversion;
- Establishing expanded, strengthened and well-connected networks of protected areas;
- Strengthening and clarifying land use rights; and
- Establishing mechanisms that place greater value on ecosystem services like water quality, soil stabilization, erosion control and climate change mitigation.
What Can We Do?
There is no time for euphemisms. Individuals around the globe who refer to themselves as environmentalists, and those who have grave concerns regarding our future with the impacts of climate change, are directly participating in the number one cause of deforestation in Australia (and many parts of the world) by eating farmed animals and their by-products.
There is no time to be innocuous. We need to stop trying to find the right way to do the wrong thing. We need to work towards not using animals for our own benefit and actually start saving our forests, woodlands and grasslands by standing up to the responsibility that we all have on this planet—our future. Supporting the animal agriculture industry who are directly destroying it is not the way forward.
There is no time to be selfish, concerned only with palatable pleasure. We are able to live nutritionally sound lives not consuming animal meat and their bodily secretions. We know quite clearly that plant-based diets are a more environmentally sustainable food system able to provide for the entire human population, where the amount of land cleared, pollution generated, crops grown and water used is drastically less than it is with the current dominating food system.
There is no time that we as individuals can affordably waste with in-action. Start today and join the millions of people around the world who help every single day by consuming a planet-based diet and go vegan
Sources: WWF, The Guardian, The Mercury