What's driving deforestation & land clearing in QLD?

What's driving deforestation & land clearing in QLD?

Deforestation in Australia has now reached globally significant levels, driven largely by land clearing in Queensland. For the first time, we’ve uncovered the contribution of various sectors.

In the last five years, over 1.6 million hectares of forest and bushland has been cleared in Queensland alone, according to State Government data. Our analysis has found that 73% of all deforestation and land clearing in the state is linked to beef production—and it’s over 93% in Great Barrier Reef catchments.

Photo: Wayne Lawler

Deforestation in Australia

Deforestation—the reduction or complete removal of native forest and bushland—has escalated in Australia over the recent years to reach globally significant levels. Eastern Australia is now a designated global deforestation hotspot, alongside places including the Amazon, the Congo and Borneo. 

On current rates, a football field-sized area of forest and bushland is being bulldozed in Australia every two minutes. 

Deforestation is a leading driver of biodiversity loss, a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions, and contributed to poor water quality running into the Great Barrier Reef. Queensland has the highest rates of deforestation and land clearing in the country, with more forest and bushland clearing than the rest of the country combined. Queensland also has the nation's most accurate and publicly available dataset for measuring tree-cover change. It is for these reasons that our analysis focused on Queensland.

Summary Report

The Queensland Government’s official reports consistently attribute over 90% of the states forest and bushland destruction to replacement by ‘pasture’. However, the Wilderness Society has undertaken fine-scaled GIS analysis to determine, for the first time, the specific sectors contributing to deforestation in Queensland.

Our analysis found that 73% of all deforestation and land clearing in Queensland is linked to beef production. 

In Great Barrier Reef catchments, over 93% of all deforestation and land clearing is attributed to beef as the primary land use. A key implication of these findings is that the sectors identified as key drivers of Queensland’s deforestation and land clearing rates are currently exposed to deforestation risk. 

Photo: Burrage Brothers Photography

Key Findings

  • 73% of all deforestation and land clearing in Queensland is linked to beef production
  • In total, over 1 million hectares (1,174,600 hectares) of deforestation and land clearing over the last five years was linked to beef production
  • In the Great Barrier Reef catchments, over 93% of all deforestation and land clearing is attributed to beef as the primary land use

Implications: Deforestation risk in supply chains

This analysis suggests that deforestation risk exists in a number of Queensland-linked commodity supply chains, including beef and sheep production. Deforestation risk refers to the financial, reputation and brand damage that could flow from a company’s activities being linked to deforestation.

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 Wilderness Society’s view is that each sector with deforestation risk should adopt sector-wide commitment to deforestation-free practices by 2020. In addition, individual companies with deforestation risk in their supply chains—producers, processors, retailers and fast food restaurants—should follow the growing trend in global corporate commitments and remove deforestation and land clearing from their supply chains.

Read the full report

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