News - 18 January 2018

10 facts about deforestation in Australia

Australia is home to some of the most unique and magnificent nature in the world. Our country has vast savannahs and grasslands, tropical rainforests, endangered gum forests and diverse woodlands that provide shelter to our most precious threatened species.    

Yet Australia is one of the worst developed countries in the world for broadscale deforestation— killing tens of millions of native animals (including threatened species) and wiping out endangered forests and woodlands. In fact, we’ve cleared nearly half of our forest cover in the last 200 years! 

Photo: Bulldozing of bushland on the NSW Central Coast | Wayne Lawler

This is why we need new laws to protect our wildlife and environment:

  1. Around 5,000 square kilometres of virgin bushland and advanced regrowth are destroyed annually. In addition to wiping out native wildlife, it is the major cause of salinity and causes around 14% of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions  
  2. Australia has lost 25% rainforest, 45% of open forest, 32% woodland forest and 30% of mallee forest in 200 years1    
  3. The effect of these changes has been considerable. Around 20% of Australian mammals, 7% of reptiles, 13% of birds are listed as Extinct, Endangered or Vulnerable.  
  4. More than 100 species have gone extinct in NSW in the last 200 years2  
  5. Australia has one of the highest rates of tree clearing of any developed country historically. In the past, we’ve bulldozed more bush each year than poverty-stricken countries like Burma, Mexico, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and the Congo.3                                               
  6. Currently, 1,000 animal and plant species are at risk of extinction—including the koala.   
    Photo: A koala surrounded by destruction | Wildcare Australia Inc.
  7. In 2017–18, the woody vegetation clearing rate in Queensland was 392,000* hectares per year—over four and a half times what it was in 2009.4    2009–2010: 83,000 hectares  2010–2011: 92,000 hectares  2011–2012: 155,000 hectares   2012–2013: 261,000 hectares   2013–2014: 295,000 hectares  2014–2015: 296,000 hectares 2015–2016: 390,000 hectares 2016–2017: 356,000 hectares 2017–2018: 392,000 hectares
  8. In New South Wales, the government has followed Queensland's lead by ripping up its native vegetation laws.   
  9. Meanwhile in Western Australia and the Northern Territory, plans are afoot for massive destruction in the Kimberley and Keep River regions for industrial agricultural schemes.
  10. Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation could spiral further out of control. In Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Victoria, deforestation laws have either been recently weakened or are currently facing rollbacks. Emissions from tree clearing from 2016 to 2030 are projected between 673 and 826 Mt CO²e without substantial policy change. By way of comparison, this is the equivalent of operating at least three to four extra dirty Hazelwood coal-fired power plants for this same period.

¹Forest Network ²Department of Environment, NSW  ³Forest Fact Sheet  ⁴Queensland Government report

*Deforestation rates are rounded to the nearest 1,000 hectares per year

Help stop Australia becoming a Deforestation Nation

If we want to protect our climate, and the ecosystems that make our lives possible, there’s no role for deforestation in Australia’s future.