Washington, September 4, 2014 — New analysis and maps released today 
reveal the alarming speed at which the world’s largest expanses of 
forest wilderness are being degraded. More than 104 million hectares—an 
area three times the size of Germany—of the world’s remaining Intact 
Forest Landscapes were degraded from 2000 to 2013.

The Greenpeace GIS Laboratory, University of Maryland and Transparent 
World, in collaboration with the World Resources Institute and 
WWF-Russia, used satellite technology and advanced techniques to conduct 
a global analysis to determine the location and extent of the world’s 
last remaining large undisturbed forests, called Intact Forest 
Landscapes (IFLs). These are areas large enough to retain native 
biodiversity and contain no signs of fragmentation by logging and 
infrastructure such as roads, mining and oil or gas development. Intact 
Forest Landscapes also contain non-productive areas with low tree cover 
and non-forested areas.

“Governments must take urgent action to stop IFL degradation by creating 
more protected areas, strengthening the rights of forest communities and 
other measures that protect intact forests for their economic, social 
and conservation values,” said Dr. Christoph Thies, Senior Forest 
campaigner for Greenpeace International. “The UN, donor countries and 
development banks also need to support developing countries to protect 
their IFLs. Finally, voluntary private sector initiatives such as the 
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and various roundtables on palm oil, 
soy and beef, can ensure that their standards for timber and 
agricultural commodities avoid IFL degradation.”

The new maps are accessible and can be analyzed using tools on the 
cutting-edge Global Forest Watch platform(1) , a dynamic, online forest 
monitoring and alert system that empowers people to better manage forests.

“Thanks to ever more powerful cloud computing, satellite imagery, and 
the efforts of the Global Forest Watch partners, we can clearly see that 
business as usual will lead to destruction of most remaining intact 
forests this century,” said Dr. Nigel Sizer, Global Director of the 
Forest Program at WRI, and head of Global Forest Watch. “There is an 
urgent need for governments to heed the calls of their citizens and to 
respect the rights of forest-dependent peoples by properly protecting 
remaining intact forests. Global Forest Watch will continue to draw 
attention to both forest destruction and success stories to protect 
vulnerable land.”

The analysis includes several key findings:

• Since 2000, 8.1% of Intact Forests Landscapes have been degraded.
• Almost 95% of the world’s remaining Intact Forest Landscapes are in 
the tropical and boreal regions.
• The largest areas of IFL degradation have been found in the Northern 
boreal forest belt of Canada, Russia and Alaska (47%) and tropical 
forest regions such as the Amazon (25%) and Congo (9%) basins.
• Just three countries – Canada, Russia and Brazil – together contain 
65% of the world’s remaining Intact Forest Landscapes. These countries 
also accounted for over half of all IFL degradation with road building, 
often linked to logging and extractive industries, being a key driver. 
Other drivers vary significantly in different regions, from human-caused 
fires in Russia to agricultural conversion in Brazil.

The areas covered in the analysis include some of the most precious 
landscapes on Earth, such as the vast northern boreal forests, home to 
caribou migrations and enormous quantities of stored carbon, as well as 
the biodiverse rainforests of Central Borneo, the Congo and the Western 
and Northern Amazon. These last forest frontiers play a critical role in 
sustaining rich biodiversity, maintaining climate and weather stability 
as well as air and water quality, and supporting the livelihoods of 
forest-dependent communities.

However, according to the new data, human activity – such as logging and 
road building – is fragmenting these pristine landscapes. This not only 
leads to increased biodiversity loss, but also intensifies climate 
change through greenhouse gas emissions and loss of valuable forest 
carbon stores and sinks.

The new data could help companies with sustainability commitments in 
determining which areas to avoid when sourcing commodities like timber, 
palm oil, beef and soy. This is highly significant as market-led efforts 
gain further support amid continued lax governance and enforcement in 
many frontier forest regions.

This analysis is made possible through free public access to satellite 
imagery provided by the U.S. Geological Survey Landsat program in 
partnership with NASA. The IFL mapping team processed thousands of 
Landsat images, along with other information on roads and settlements, 
to catalogue human activity in previously undisturbed areas.

“Our team developed the IFL concept and mapping method in the late 1990s 
as a simple and practical tool for mapping and monitoring global forest 
degradation. Based on freely available satellite data, the method 
allowed us to map global intact areas for the first time. The year 2000 
IFL map provided a global baseline for subsequent forest degradation 
monitoring. Today we present the results of 13 years of intact forest 
monitoring performed using the same data source and method to ensure 
globally consistent results. Monitoring data allows direct quantitative 
assessment and comparison of natural forest areas degradation at global 
and national levels. We believe that the global IFL map will help to 
spur practical conservation planning and action with regard to large 
undeveloped forest landscapes,” stressed Dr. Peter Potapov, Research 
Associate Professor, University of Maryland.


Contact:
Daniel Melling, WRI, dmelling@wri.org; +1 (202) 729-7769
Martin Baker, Greenpeace, martin.baker@greenpeace.org
 
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