The stats that expose Australia’s hidden deforestation crisis

The stats that expose Australia’s hidden deforestation crisis

10 shocking statistics that will make you want to take action today to stop deforestation in its tracks

The scale of the deforestation crisis taking place across Australia should alarm us all. These 10 facts prove we need to put a stop to deforestation now.

1. Australia has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world.

Over 4.5 million hectares of forest and bushland was destroyed between 2010 and 2020. Deforestation is when humans significantly damage, alter or destroy forest—usually by bulldozing or logging.*

2. Australia is a global deforestation hotspot—and Queensland is leading the destruction.

The total amount of clearing that took place in Queensland in just ONE YEAR (2018-2019) is shown over Brisbane for scale:

Image: 682,000ha were cleared in Qld from 2018-19

3. The next two worst states for deforestation? NSW & WA.

This map shows the total amount of clearing that took place across New South Wales from 2018-2019, shown over Sydney for scale:

Image: 69,800ha were cleared in NSW from 2018-19

And this is Western Australia's deforestation for the year 2018-2019, shown over Perth:

Image: 170,000ha were cleared in WA from 2018-19

4. The majority of deforestation in Queensland is to graze livestock.

About 70% of the land clearing and deforestation taking place in Queensland is to create pastures to graze livestock—in particular, cattle raised for beef.
Watch on Nature

Watch on Nature

The Wilderness Society’s new web-based app is exposing deforestation across Australia—and will put a stop to the deforestation crisis.

5. In Qld alone, the beef industry has destroyed 1.4 million hectares of bushland in 5 years.

Approximately 1.4 million hectares of Queensland’s forest and bushland was impacted by clearing activity for the raising of cattle for beef from 2016-2021 (the latest year for which government clearing data has been published). Of the forest and bushland bulldozed, about 89% was for livestock pasture, of which about 70% was linked to the beef industry.

6. Deforestation is putting our wildlife on the fast-track to extinction.

Some of Australia’s most endangered species are having their homes destroyed by deforestation. Right now, an estimated 1,900 plant and animal species are threatened or at risk of extinction—habitat loss is one of main causes.

Photo: Brian Coulter

7. This includes iconic Aussie animals like the koala.

In just five years (2015-2020), 724,070ha of "likely or known" koala habitat was impacted by clearing activity linked to grazing cattle for beef in Queensland alone.

8. Even our Great Barrier Reef is threatened by deforestation.

It’s one of earth’s most important natural wonders, but runoff from deforested areas can increase sedimentation in the reef, which can harm coral and other marine life. In Queensland, 47% of land clearing and deforestation between 2020 and 2021 was in Great Barrier Reef catchments areas. Our analysis has shown that at least 87% of land clearing activity in Great Barrier Reef catchments between 2015-2020 was for cattle for the beef industry.

In this aerial image, you can see sandy-coloured sediment flowing into the Great Barrier Reef from the Burdekin River. It was captured on 6 Jan 2023 via our web-based app, Watch on Nature. There are a heap of cattle properties upstream from here.

9. Deforestation makes climate change worse.

Trees absorb and store carbon dioxide. It's estimated that deforestation in Australia releases approximately 50 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year.

Image: Forests and bushland is bulldozed and then burnt: this is what deforestation looks like. Wombinoo station, Queensland

10. Deforestation erodes First Nations’ cultural heritage.

Many First Nations communities in Australia have been affected by deforestation. Destroying forests and bushland can put sacred sites at risk of damage, and make it difficult for First Nations groups to hunt or fish, hold ceremonies, and visit places of cultural importance.
5 ways you can help

5 ways you can help

When you hear facts about Australia’s deforestation crisis, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the scale of devastation happening across our country. But there are steps you can take, right now, to halt this destruction. And your actions will make a difference.

*The Wilderness Society defines 'deforestation' as:

Loss of natural forest as a result of:
i) conversion to a non-forest land use;
ii) conversion to a plantation forest; or
iii) human activity that reduces forest species composition, structure or function so that it is significantly ecologically and structurally different from the primary forest of the site.
Includes conversion for agriculture, resources and mining, infrastructure, urban development and thinning of forests for non-forest uses.