News - 25 February 2021

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. Australia is in the midst of a deforestation and land clearing crisis, with an MCG-sized area of forests and bushlands destroyed every two minutes.
  2. Just 50% of Australia’s forests and bushlands remain intact compared with pre-European arrival. The other 50% has been either permanently destroyed and replaced with another land use or is classed as degraded forests and bushlands—most of which was previously cleared but now regrowing vegetation of different ages.
  3. Australia has lost 27% of our rainforest, 19% of open forest, 11% of woodland forest and 28% of mallee forest since 1750.
  4. Australia is the worst offending country in the world for mammal extinctions.
  5. Fifty-five wildlife species plus 37 plant species have gone extinct in Australia.
  6. The greatest threat to koalas in Queensland and New South Wales is habitat loss. 

  7. Our 2019 analysis found that 73% of all deforestation and land clearing in Queensland is linked to beef production.
  8. 275,775 ha of likely koala habitat in Queensland was cleared between 2013 and 2018. So, more than one Gabba stadium of this threatened species habitat is cleared in Queensland every 20 mins. Of this, 76% of likely koala habitat was cleared on land with beef listed as its primary land use. 
  9. Carbon emissions released by land clearing across Australia are equivalent to about a third of the total emissions released by all of the coal-fired power stations in the country. Once native forest logging emissions are included, this is equivalent to at least half the carbon pollution of all Australian coal-fired power stations.
  10. Globally, new international agreements and corporate commitments to deforestation-free commodity supply chains will place increasing demand on Australia’s soft commodity sectors to transition to sustainable practices.

The growing imperative to transform and repair Australia’s damaged forests and bushlands, combined with the pressing need to draw down carbon out of the atmosphere, creates a big opportunity for Australia to invest heavily in ecological restoration, create new protected areas and strengthen laws that protect forest and bushland across the country. Get involved in our plan to win today.

References: 

  1. Calculations are based on a national average of 470,386 hectares of deforestation and land clearing per year, 1,288 hectares per day, 53 hectares per hour, 0.89 hectares per minute. 0.89 hectares/minute x 2 minutes = 1.78 hectares = close to the 1.77 hectare area of the MCG.
  2. Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics (2012) Vegetation Assets, States and Transitions—2008 dataset. Accessed July 2017. In this report, intact refers to residual vegetation communications in the dataset; cleared refers to replaced and removed; and degraded refers to modified and transformed. Analysis of data by The Wilderness Society.
  3. Analysis by the Wilderness Society of supplementary material provided with Tulloch A, et al (2015) Understanding the importance of small patches of habitat for conservation. Journal of Applied Ecology, 53(2): 418-429.
  4. Woinarski J, et al (2015) Ongoing unraveling of a continental fauna: decline and extinction of Australian mammals since European settlement. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(5): 4531-4540. Additionally, as at 4/9/20, the IUCN Red List database contained 84 extinct mammals across the world. Of these, 25 were from Australia plus another 3 were from Christmas Island. This is the highest number of extinct mammals recorded in any country globally.
  5. Australian Government (2021) EPBC Act List of threatened fauna. And Australian Government (2021) EPBC Act List of threatened flora.
  6. According to the Queensland Government's own Species Technical Committee Report into the impact of land clearing on threatened species, “Habitat loss is the most serious threat to koalas in Queensland and New South Wales (Martin and Handasyde 1999).” The report states that clearing leads to many direct deaths whilst also exposing koalas to additional threatening processes through habitat fragmentation. Species Technical Committee and Laidlaw MJ (2017) Scientific review of the impacts of land clearing on threatened species in Queensland. Queensland Government, Brisbane.
  7. The Wilderness Society (2019) Drivers of deforestation and land clearing in Queensland.
  8. The Wilderness Society (2019) Drivers of deforestation and land clearing in Queensland.  
  9. The Wilderness Society (2017) Towards Zero Deforestation.
  10. The Wilderness Society (2019) Australian beef and deforestation: Corporate scorecard.

Additional references: Forest Network; Department of Environment, NSWForest Fact SheetQueensland Government report

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.