10 facts about deforestation in Australia
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!
10 facts about deforestation
...and why we need new nature laws now.
- Australia is in the midst of a deforestation and land clearing crisis, with an MCG-sized area of forests and bushlands destroyed every 86 seconds.🕙
- 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.🌱
- Australia has lost 27% of our rainforest, 19% of open forest, 11% of woodland forest and 28% of mallee forest since 1750.🪵
- Australia is the worst offending country in the world for mammal extinctions.🌏
- Fifty-five wildlife species plus 37 plant species have gone extinct in Australia.🌳
Photo: Paul Hilton
- The greatest threat to koalas in Queensland and New South Wales is habitat loss.🐨
- Our 2019 analysis found that 73% of all deforestation and land clearing in Queensland is linked to beef production.🥩
- The most recent Queensland government land clearing data shows that between 2018 and 2019, over 92,718 hectares of koala habitat was cleared in just one year. And around 73,285ha of that—or a whopping 80%—was destroyed for beef production.🚜
- 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.🏭
- 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.📝
- Calculations are based on 746,677 hectares of deforestation and land clearing in 2018-19 across Australia, 2,045 hectares per day, 85 hectares per hour, 1.42 hectares per minute. 1.42 hectares/60 seconds x 86 seconds = 2.03 hectares = close to the 2.02 hectare area of the MCG.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Australian Government (2021) EPBC Act List of threatened fauna. And Australian Government (2021) EPBC Act List of threatened flora.
- 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.
- The Wilderness Society (2019) Drivers of deforestation and land clearing in Queensland. See also Queensland Government SLATS report
- Qld koala habitat clearing linked to beef production: 2018-19
- The Wilderness Society (2017) Towards Zero Deforestation.
- The Wilderness Society (2019) Australian beef and deforestation: Corporate scorecard.
Additional references: State of the Environment report 2021