Half of Papua New Guinea forests could be gone in 15 years
The forests of Papua New Guinea are being chopped down so quickly that more than half its trees could be lost by 2021, according to a new satellite study of the region.
The study, by the University of Papua New Guinea and the Australian National University, found that deforestation is much more widespread than was previously thought, even in so-called conservation areas. Papua New Guinea (PNG) has the world's third largest tropical forest, but it was being cleared or degraded at a rate of 362,000 hectares (895,000 acres) a year in 2001, the report said.
Phil Shearman, lead author of the study, said: "The unfortunate reality is that forests in Papua New Guinea are being logged repeatedly and wastefully with little regard for the environmental consequences and with at least the passive complicity of government authorities." The destruction will drive global warming, because tropical forests are an important store of carbon.
The researchers compared satellite images taken over three decades from the early 1970s. In 1972, the country had 38m hectares (94m acres), of rainforest covering 82% of the country. About 15% of that was cleared by 2002.
"For the first time, we have evidence of what's happening in the PNG forests," Shearman said. " The government could make a significant contribution to global efforts to combat climate change. It is in its own interest to do so, as this nation is particularly susceptible to negative effects due to loss of the forest cover."