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 protect special forests from deforestation now.

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

Over 7.7 million hectares of forest and bushland was destroyed by land clearing between 2000 and 2017. That’s an area the size of Ireland. Australia is the only ‘developed’ country on the list of global deforestation hotspots.

2. A handful of industries are causing deforestation in Australia.

Deforestation is when humans significantly damage, alter or destroy forest—usually by bulldozing or logging. But why exactly are forests being destroyed? It can be:

  • to turn a forest into pastures for cows or sheep to graze on, or to plant crops;

  • to cut and pulp the trees into wood, packaging or paper;

  • to mine the land that the forest grows on; or

  • to make way for the construction of roads and buildings for industry or urban development.

The agriculture, forestry and land development sectors are primarily driving Australia’s deforestation crisis.

3. Beef production is the leading cause of deforestation in Queensland.

In Queensland alone, the beef industry has destroyed 1.4 million hectares of forests and bushland in five years. 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

Our web-based satellite monitoring platform exposes deforestation, so together, we can hold governments & companies to account.

4. Mining is the main cause of deforestation in WA’s precious Jarrah forests.

WA’s Northern Jarrah Forests are part of a global biodiversity hotspot. Despite a commitment to end native forest logging, the forests remain under threat from mining for bauxite, which is then refined and turned into aluminium products. Rates of deforestation for bauxite have accelerated in the area in recent decades.

5. Deforestation for paper and wood continues in Australia.

Australia’s globally significant forests are being cut down to make paper and wood products. In Lutruwita / Tasmania, the state government logging agency has plans to log over 800,000 hectares of precious forests, inhabited by threatened species like the spotted quoll and swift parrot. In New South Wales, deforestation continues in bushfire-affected high conservation value forests. And while the Victorian and Western Australian governments have committed to end industrial native forest logging, it remains unclear how these iconic forests will be protected and restored for the long term.

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

Most of Australia’s nature is unique. Yet right now, over 1,900 plant and animal species are threatened or at risk of extinction—habitat loss is one of the main causes for this crisis. Deforestation kills and injures native animals, and destroys the homes they rely on to survive.

7. Half of Australia’s forests have already been destroyed.

Research shows that in 2012, just 50% of Australia’s forests remained intact compared with pre-colonisation. The other 50% has been either permanently converted to another land use or degraded during 200+ years of colonisation.

And since then, millions more hectares of forests found nowhere else on Earth have been logged, cleared and burnt.

Under the cumulative impacts of degradation and climate change, a number of unique Australian forest ecosystems are at risk of collapse by 2060. For example, only 1% of the mountain ash forest ecosystem remains unlogged and unburnt in Victoria’s Central Highlands today, and this forest is listed by the IUCN as Critically Endangered.

8. Even the Great Barrier Reef is at risk from deforestation.

It’s one of Earth’s most important natural wonders, but erosion and runoff from deforested areas increases sedimentation in the reef, which harms coral and other marine life. In Queensland, 47% of land clearing and deforestation between 2020 and 2021 was in Great Barrier Reef catchments areas, polluting the water in rivers that flow into the reef.

Sandy-coloured sediment flows into the Great Barrier Reef from the Burdekin River—numerous cattle properties are upstream. Image via Watch on Nature

9. Deforestation makes climate change worse.

Living, intact forests are best for absorbing and storing carbon dioxide, making them an essential barrier to climate change. When trees are bulldozed or logged, this absorption is forced to stop and most of the carbon is released into the atmosphere. For example, native forest logging is the highest emitting industry in Lutruwita / Tasmania, with annual emissions equivalent to 1.1 million cars. In Victoria, research shows that decades of clearfell logging is causing forests to burn more frequently and severely.

10. Deforestation erodes First Nations’ cultural heritage.

Many First Nations communities in Australia have been directly impacted by deforestation, their traditional lands turned into ‘sick’ or ‘upside down’ Country. Deforestation almost always occurs without the free prior and informed consent of First Peoples. Destroying forests and bushland can put songlines and other sacred sites at risk of desecration, as well as disrupt or prevent cultural practises and the ability to care for Country. First Nations communities have never ceded their sovereignty over these lands. Governments, businesses and communities recognising their inherent rights is essential to healing and restoring these cultural landscapes.

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 make a difference.