Ecocentric

The Top 10 Most Endangered Forests

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Photographs for TIME by Kemal Jufri / Imaji

Today kicks off the UN International Year of Forests. (I know, it feels like International Polar Year just ended—probably because it was actually two years.) The event is meant to focus global attention on the plight of the world’s forests, which provide carbon sequestration, climate regulation and are host to an astounding variety of biodiversity. While we often think that forests are being fast lost—hence the perennial attempts to save the rainforest—there is some good news. Thanks to aggressive reforestation projects in Europe, North America and Asia—especially in China—the loss of trees isn’t as bad as it could be. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reported that the estimated 4.032 billion hectares of forest is down from 4.085 billion hectares in 2000, but the rate of trees cleared has slowed significant since the 1990s, when 8.3 million hectares were lost each year.

But while reforestation can stanch some of the bleeding, when a native forest is cleared something valuable is lost forever, even if secondary growth eventually covers up the scars. And some places are more vulnerable than others. Conservation International (CI) has come out with a list of the 10 most vulnerable forest hotspots in the world, forests that have lost more than 90% of their original habitat and which harbor at least 1,500 plant species that are found nowhere else in the world. (CI focuses on “hotspots”—areas of the planet that host endemic species, knowing that when the habitat goes, so does the wildlife.) The threatened forests range from the U.S. to China, and if nothing is done to save them, they may not last much longer:

Hotspot Remaining habitat
1 Indo-Burma (southern Asia) 5%
2 New Zealand 5%
3 Sundaland (Indonesia/Malaysia) 7%
4 Philippines 7%
5 Atlantic Forest (South America) 8%
6 Mountains of Southwest China 8%
7 California Floristic Province (U.S. and Mexico) 10%
8 Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa 10%
9 Madagascar & Indian Ocean Islands 10%
10 Eastern Afromontane (Africa) 11%

 

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