Deforestation & land clearing in Queensland
Deforestation in Australia has now reached globally significant levels, driven largely by land clearing in Queensland.
Australia is the worst offending country for mammal extinctions. For species like the koala, we know the biggest problem is the destruction of their forest homes. Over roughly the last 20 years, koalas numbers have declined by almost 50% across Queensland.
Photo: Wayne Lawler
Deforestation record in Australia driven by Queensland
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 recognised global deforestation hotspot, alongside places including the Amazon, the Congo and Borneo.
The latest Queensland government’s Statewide Landcover and Trees Study (SLATS) figures for the year 2018-19 shows:
- 668,208 hectares of forest and bushland was bulldozed in one year (excluding plantation forestry)
- 32% (217,419 ha) was in Great Barrier Reef catchments
- 28% (189,735 ha) was remnant—mature and fully functioning ecosystems
The destruction of forest and bushland across Queensland continues to be the biggest contributor to Australia's terrible deforestation record.
This most recent 2018-19 data was only released on December 30 2021—so we are still crunching the numbers.
But it is clear that a Gabba sized stadium is now destroyed in Qld about every 91 seconds.
An analysis of previous years’ data indicates that almost three-quarters of this is likely to be for beef production.
Big buyers of Australian beef must go deforestation-free.
The beef industry must show leadership and urgently change its practices to stop selling beef linked to deforestation. This change is needed throughout the whole supply chain, from producers through to retailers, such as supermarkets and fast food restaurants.
Major retailers could, and as good corporate citizens should, chose to only buy deforestation-free beef. If this happened, the whole industry would need to clean up its act.
But currently, none of the big supermarkets and fast food chains can guarantee that the beef they source and sell is free of deforestation.
We need to make this an issue they can’t ignore.
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 2019 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.
- 73% of all deforestation and land clearing in Queensland from 2013-2018 is linked to beef production
- In total, over 1 million hectares (1,174,600 hectares) of deforestation and land clearing over the five years to 2018 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. 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