Article: Illegal Logging and Deforestation

4 Endangered Forests

Sunset over the trees in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. Credit:

Nov. 17, 2021

by Babak Babali

Where are the world's most endangered forests? And how is mismanagement threatening their survival?

It is common knowledge that the earth's forests, which cover over 30% of its surface, are essential for keeping our planet's ecosystem sustainable.

They are not just pretty to look at; trees absorb carbon dioxide and generate oxygen, which makes the atmosphere life-friendly.

However, humans—with our characteristic shortsightedness—have gradually been eliminating the world's forests over the course of last century.

Trees are harvested by the timber industry, and their wood is used as a raw material or fuel.

Forests are also cleared to make way for ambitious road and railway projects.

But the timber and construction industries are not destructive in-and-of themselves, and if managed in a responsible manner reforestation could be kept at a sustainable rate.

After all, we all use wooden products such as furniture, sheet materials, and stationery almost every day.

However, if current available forest harvesting statistics are anything to go by, we are not clearcutting the earth's forests at a reasonable rate.

On average, an area the size of Belgium is deforested in the world each year, which means living on this planet will be impossible sooner than what we might have imagined.

Read on to find out how mismanagement and illegal logging are affecting the world's forests.

The Amazon Rainforest (Brazil)

The Amazon is the world's largest rainforest and an essential source of oxygen for our planet. The unrooting and felling of trees in this famous rainforest, however, is steadily in progress.

The clearcutting of the Amazon in 2020 reached an all-time high since 2008, showing a 9.5% increase compared to the previous year. The most regrettable part of the story is that the trees of Amazon are not much in demand by the timber industry, and they are simply uprooted to make way for agricultural and mining enterprises as well as the construction of roads.

The Amazon is home to a large proportion of the world's biodiversity, and aggressive deforestation in this rainforest could destabilise the ecosystem of all of South America, if not the world.

Wild Taiga (Russia)

Russia is blessed with an incredible ecosystem, with almost half of the country is covered with trees. However, given its huge size and the pervasiveness of corruption in some areas, logging is practically out of control in the eastern and northern parts of Russia.

The wild taiga biome dominates much of the northern hemisphere, covering the northern parts of Japan, Mongolia, most of Scandinavia, Scotland, and Canada, in addition to Russia.

Sadly, forestry protocols are largely sidestepped in the Russian part of the taiga.

This part of Siberia is home to some of the world's most unique and most endangered forests; many Siberian cedar trees have been harvested in recent years, with the timber sold to Chinese companies with questionable permits and paperwork.

The Congo Basin Forest (DRC, Gabon, Cameroon)

The world's second largest tropical rainforest may not be as famous as the Amazon, but it is similarly under threat by unsustainable activities. Located in western equatorial Africa, the Congo Basin forest covers a huge area, almost the size of Mexico.

The region hosts many rare primates, which cannot survive elsewhere. Being home to over 100 million people who lead a semi hunter-gatherer lifestyle, the Congo Basin forest is also of paramount importance to anthropologists.

Until recently, the Congo Basin forest was relatively unharmed, but with further modernization of the region, logging, mining, and the harvesting of trees as raw materials for the manufacturing of charcoal has accelerated.

The Tropical Rainforest of Sumatra (Indonesia)

The rainforest of Sumatra, despite being recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site in 2004, is still under threat from deforestation.

This picturesque forest is in some ways a victim of its own beauty.

Each year many tourists make their way to Sumatra to enjoy the island's scenery, and in doing so damage its fragile ecosystem.

Over half a century ago, the British broadcaster, Sir David Attenborough, described the rainforest of Sumatra as the “the most extraordinary place on earth."

But if Indonesian authorities do not take appropriate measures, the rainforest of Sumatra may follow the example of Bali, another island celebrated by Attenborough and subsequently destroyed by tourism.

By the time that the British satirist, Douglas Adams, paid a visit to Bali in the late 1980s, he noted that Attenborough “must have been there longer than we were, and seen different bits, because most of what we saw in the couple of days we were there sorting out our travel arrangements was awful. It was just the tourist area, i.e., that part of Bali which has been made almost exactly the same as everywhere else in the world for the sake of people who have come all this way to see Bali."

Sumatra's rainforests are also eliminated en masse for the extraction of palm oil—a potentially carcinogenic ingredient of questionable repute which is used in some food products and cosmetics.

If the year 2020 taught us anything, it is that our survival on this planet is more at risk than we previously assumed, and that governments and businesses active in logging, construction, and tourism ought to take further steps to minimize their impact on the planet and its ecosystem.

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