Global Deforestation

Deforestation is a normal process and part of the development practice in every country.  All urban regions, residential and agricultural areas in every country originate from deforestation. Even though global deforestation is a normal process in each country, Indonesia is not the country with the largest deforestation in the world.

The results of Matthew’s study (1983) showed that the start of development in temperate countries such as in Europe and North America resulted in the deforestation of 653 million hectares before the year 1980 (Table 1).

Table 1: Global deforestation

Description

Tropical forest
(million ha)
Non-tropical forest
(million ha)

World Forest

(million ha)

1.      Pre-agricultural forest

1,277 3,351 4,628

2.      Forest in 1980

1,229 2,698

3,927

Deforestation (pre-agriculture to 1980)

48

653

701

Source: Matthew, 1983

The European mainland experienced deforestation before the 1500s, deforestation in the US took place in the 1620-1920 period (www.globalchange.umich.edu). Meanwhile, in the same period countries in the tropical regions carried out deforestation only on 48 million hectares because development and the size of their populations were relatively still low.

However, since the 1980s when tropical countries and others have begun carrying out development and face population growth, deforestation has increased.

In the 1990-2008 period (European Commission, 2013) global deforestation reached 239 million hectares. About 33 percent of this deforestation took place in the United States and 31 percent in Africa, while, Southeast Asia, where Indonesia is located, accounted for 19 percent.

With this global deforestation data, deforestation is seen as a part of normal development processes in each country. Despite it being a normal development process, deforestation in Indonesia is not the biggest source of global deforestation. Deforestation in North American and European regions (before 1980) and South American countries like Brazil and Argentina (1980-2008) was still much greater than the deforestation in Indonesia.

The cause of the 1990-2008 global deforestation (Table 2) was cattle ranch expansion (24.3 percent) especially in South America, fires (17.2 percent), soybean farm expansion (5.6 percent), the expansion of corn farms and sugarcane plantations (3.2 percent), while global oil palm expansion was only 2.3 percent.

Table 2:   Cause of global deforestation 1990-2008

Driver

Deforestation Width
Million ha

Percent

Cattle ranches (South America)

58

24.3
Fires

41

17.2

Soybean farm expansion ( South America)

13.4

5.6

Infrastructure development

9

3.8

Corn expansion (South America)

7.5

3.1

Oil palm expansion

5.5

2.3

Logging/ wood production

4.5

1.9

Rice field expansion

4.3

1.8

Sugarcane expansion

3.3

1.4

Other agricultural use

35.5

14.9

Others

58

24.3

Total 239

100.0

Source: European Commission, 2013

 

Based on this data, oil palm plantations are not the main cause of global deforestation. Development of grazing areas, sugarcane plantations, soybean, rapeseed and sunflower farms are the main cause of global deforestation.

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