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Australia is the only developed country listed in a new report highlighting the world’s top 24 deforestation zones, due to its significant logging and excessive land clearing for cattle pasture in New South Wales (NSW), Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for Nature's report on deforestation hotspots, published on Thursday,  reveals that almost half of the original forested area in eastern Australia has been lost, with 700 native flora and fauna species, including koalas, threatened as a result. The report said Australia's notable deforestation could also be attributed to mining, fires, transport infrastructure and urban expansion. 

WWF Conservation Scientist Martin Taylor said Australia's lax environmental regulations allowed for widespread damage. 

"Land clearing rates rocketed after the axing of restrictions in Queensland and NSW, placing eastern Australia alongside the most infamous places in the world for forest destruction," Taylor said in a WWF media release. "Despite Queensland restoring some restrictions in 2018, eastern Australia remains a deforestation front. That will not change until we see rates of destruction go down."

Across 2015 and 2016, 395,000 hectares were cleared in Queensland alone, the equivalent of 1,500 football fields a day.

Bulldozing in Queensland killed 45 million animals and created 45 million tonnes of carbon emissions.

Although Australia's 2019 Black Summer bushfires were not included in the report, as it tracked deforestation from 2004 to 2017, experts fear climate change-induced fires and their effect on Australia will become a prominent, recurring theme in future reports. 

"Forest destruction was already bad enough for the region to be declared a global deforestation front, then the 2019-20 bushfires burned about 12.6 million hectares in eastern Australia," the report said. "Forest fires are likely to increase due to longer and more extreme dry seasons as a result of climate change."

Eastern Australia has been looped in with 10 other "medium" deforestation fronts, including hotspots in Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Zambia, Peru, Laos, Central African Republic and Mozambique. Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, Madagascar and Borneo were all marked in the "high" deforestation category.

Overall, 43 million hectares of land — roughly the size of Morocco — has been destroyed globally since 2004.


Defend the Planet

Australia Is the Only Developed Country Featured on WWF's List of Deforestation Hotspots

By Madeleine Keck